March 5 (Reuters) - Bangladesh said on Tuesday it will not suspend Norwegian mobile telephone firm Telenor’s operations in the country even though a government commission said its license should be suspended immediately.
The commission, set up last year, concluded in a preliminary report last month that the original licensing agreement in 1996, which created Telenor’s Bangladesh subsidiary Grameenphone , was flawed and should be considered invalid.
“We will wait to get the final report from the Commission hopefully ... within the next two months,” Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith told Reuters.
“We will then think of what we can do, but in no way will we suspend or cease its (Telenor) operation,” he said.
Oslo-listed Telenor, which has 150 million subscribers worldwide, owns a 56 percent stake in Dhaka-listed Grameenphone, which has 40 million customers and has become Telenor’s most profitable unit.
Telenor said on Tuesday that the Bangladesh licence was valid.
“We are confident that we acquired the license legally in 1996,” Telenor spokesman Tor Odland said. “We will take up the matter with authorities in Bangladesh.”
Grameenphone contributed a tenth of Telenor’s earnings before interest, taxes depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) in 2012 and its EBITDA margin of 53 percent was by far the highest among any of its units.
Bangladesh renewed Grameenphone’s operating license for 15 years last year, despite a long administrative delay that held the process up for several months.
The commission argued that if the government opted not to suspend the firm’s operations, Telenor should be forced to give up 16 percent of the firm retroactive to 2002 and the Bangladesh government should use the funds for the benefit of the poor and landless. (Reporting by Serajul Quadir; Writing by Balazs Koranyi; Editing by Susan Fenton)