Probe may hurt Ananda Krishnan’s Aircel loan plans, says Indian daily

By Debra Chong, The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 11 — India’s fifth-largest mobile operator Aircel will find it tough to get banks to fund its expansion with police investigating its biggest shareholder T. Ananda Krishnan for criminal conspiracy over his stake in the company, the Times of India reported today.

Indian investigators have named Ananda (picture), his top executive Ralph Marshall and two Malaysian companies, Maxis Communications Bhd (Maxis Communications) and Astro All-Asia Networks (Astro) in their probe which centres on graft allegations against former Indian telecommunications minister Dayadhini Maran and his media mogul brother, Kalainidhi.

“Naming Aircel in the FIR is not significant. But with others like [Ananda] and Marshall named in the FIR, it would become difficult for Aircel to raise funds from banks,” a lawyer told India’s top English-language paper today, referring to the First Investigation Report.

Aircel, which has 55 million subscribers, recently partnered Virtela — the world’s largest independently-managed network in security and cloud computing services — to boost their global business operations through faster, safer and more mobile networks.

The Indian telecommunications company had budgeted US$1.4 billion (RM4.4 billion) for its nationwide coverage expansion in June last year.

Aircel planned to double its India investment to US$10 billion over the next four years to rollout new services and expand its existing network to include wireless broadband coverage nationwide.

“We have already invested US$5 billion, including 3G spectrum price and network rollout, and by 2014, we will pump another similar amount to take up our investment to US$10 billion to ramp up our capacity,” Aircel chief operating officer Gurdeep Singh was reported saying in February this year by several Indian media

Ananda owns a 74 per cent stake in Aircel through Maxis Communications which also has a 70 per cent stake in Malaysia’s telecommunications giant, Maxis Bhd.

The 73-year-old telecommunications, media and property tycoon is reported to be worth US$9.6 billion and is ranked by Forbes as Southeast Asia’s second-richest man and the world’s 89th.

The controversy centres on Maxis’ 74 per cent stake in Aircel, which was said to have been bought for Rs78.81 billion (about RM506,556,185).

Apart from the case filed against the Maran brothers, Ananda, Marshall and the Malaysian companies, India’s Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) has named the Maran brothers’ Sun TV Network.