British telecommunications giant Vodafone Group may be forced to offload its small stake in Bharti Airtel as the government's new unified licencing (UL) norms doesn't allow telecoms to own a direct or indirect equity stake in another firm.
The new rules state that no telecom firm can own a direct or indirect stake in another telecom firm operating in the same of any of India's twenty-two telecom circles.
The recently unveiled UL norms document states, "No licensee or its promoter(s), directly or indirectly, shall have any beneficial interest in another licensee company holding `access spectrum' in the same service area."
Vodafone Group, which owns a majority stake in Vodafone India, also owns 4.4 per cent equity stake in Bharti Airtel. The two companies offer services in all of the 22 circles of India.
Companies will have to comply with the new norms within a year from the date of issuing of new licences. However, applications for new licences may consume months of time to process.
At recent price of Bharti Airtel shares of around Rs 345 apiece, Vodafone's stake in the top telecom services provider is worth around $1 billion.