The Nepalese National Telecommunications Authority (NTA) could block Axiata’s exit from Nepal for not notifying the regulator of the sale of its unit Ncell, as the Malaysian operator opted to exit the market due to a tax dispute with the government.
NTA chairperson Purhusottam Khanal said: “We have notified Axiata through Ncell that prior approval to the NTA is essential. As there has been no official communication from the companies concerned about the SPA (sale and purchase agreement), we have written to the Malaysian company,” The Kathmandu Post reported.
Khanal added if the regulator finds Axiata had not sent notice of the sale, “in such a case, Axiata could move [to] the court, triggering a new legal battle.”
The chairperson argued telecoms companies contain sensitive information which is why potential buyers must be vetted by the body.
Prime Minster Pushpa Kamal Sahal waded into the massive dispute, he said: “A foreign company cannot do whatever it likes in Nepal. As this case is linked with the NTA and also our tax administration, I have told the chief secretary that we should first study the matter. Only after we study the issue will we decide if the sale can go ahead.”
Axiata announced last week it entered an unconditional sale and purchase agreement with Spectrlite UK, for the transfer of Reynolds Holding Limited which holds 80% of shares in Ncell.
The UK registered company is is owned by Satish Lal Acharya, person of Nepali origin residing in Singapore, reported The Kathmandu Post. The remaining 20% of Ncell is held by Sunivera Capital Venture, owned by Acharya’s wife Bhavana Singh Shrestha.