UPDATE 1-Telenor maintains India peak funding target

Fri Dec 14, 2012 2:44am EST

* Funding cap remains 155 bln rupees

* Sees break even by end of 2013

* Indian funding needs moderate until break even (Adds analyst, detail)

OSLO, Dec 14 (Reuters) - Telenor will stick to its peak funding target in India, the world's second-biggest mobile market, where it expects to break even by the end of next year after scaling back operations.

The Norwegian telecoms operator has set a peak funding cap of 155 billion Indian rupees ($2.85 billion), or about 16 billion Norwegian crowns for its Indian operations and recently reduced its presence in the country to stay below the limit.

The funding needs until break even are moderate, it said in a slide ahead of a presentation on Friday

"The most important thing is that they say they don't need to invest more money," said Espen Torgersen, an analyst at brokerage Carnegie.

"But what about 3G and what about M&A? Are there new so called business cases that are not included in the 155 billion rupees?" he added.

India's mobile market is less concentrated than other telecom markets and Telenor said the inevitable consolidation could present opportunities to build muscle.

Telenor won back its telecom operating licences in six of India's most populous states in an auction last month, after Indian authorities had cancelled 122 operating permits awarded in a corruption-tainted licensing round, forcing Telenor and others to reapply.

Telenor originally had licences in 13 circles and the Indian unit has never made a net profit.

While India's more than 900 million mobile phone customers make it the world's second-biggest market after China, intense competition among 15 carriers means wafer-thin margins.

Telenor's Uttar Pradesh East circle has achieved break-even after three years, and Telenor expects its Gujarat and Maharashtra to break even in early 2013, it said.

The cost of acquiring its six new licences was 4.2 billion crowns and the firm targets above 25 percent equity return on new money invested in India

($1 = 54.4350 Indian rupees) (Reporting by Victoria Klesty; Editing by Balazs Koranyi)