#Axiata’s exit from Ncell

Patan High Court issues short-term interim order halting shares transfer of Ncell

Published On: December 8, 2023 07:45 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, Dec 8: The Patan High Court has issued a short term interim order not to proceed with the controversial transaction of Ncell shares.

A single bench of Judge Purushottam Prasad Dhakal on Thursday issued the prohibition order against Ncell, a private sector telecom company in Nepal. Stating that it is mandatory for the company to take approval of the regulator, the High Court ordered Ncell to halt the shares trading until December 11. 

Axiata Group, which partnered with Ncell in 2016, announced its exit from the company last week. Axiata had bought 80 percent of Reynolds Holding's shares in Ncell for Rs 143 billion. After seven years, the selling of the same shares for just 4.65 percent of the purchase price, i.e. 95.35 percent less than the sale price, has raised suspicion of ulterior motives to secure undue benefits.

In response to a case registered against Ncell's current investor Axiata and the owner and manager of Sunivera Capital Ventures, which is considered to be a local partner, the Patan High Court has issued a short-term order against the deal. The writ petitioner has claimed that the deal involves embezzlement of foreign currency and money laundering.

Amid soaring controversies, the government on Thursday formed a high level probe committee to investigate the Axiata-Ncell tax evasion case. The probe committee is led by Former Auditor General Tanka Mani Sharma.

The members of the committee are Secretary Fanindra Gautam, Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Finance Ritesh Kumar Shakya, Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology Babu Ram Bhandari and President of ICAN Sujan Kumar Kafle.

The probe committee will study and investigate the share purchase and sale of telecommunication service provider company Ncell and submit a report within one month. Speaking at the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee meeting, lawmakers however blamed the government for doing too little, too late in the name of formation of a high level probe committee to investigate the country’s one of the largest financial scams.   

Meanwhile, Ncell has asserted that the enterprise value of the 80 percent of shares sold by Axiata to Spectralite UK amounts to approximately 400 million US dollars or Rs 53.20 billion. Issuing a press release, the private sector telecom company further claimed that the sale of its shares underwent an open competition process.

Shares in Axiata Reynolds Holdings were acquired by Satish Lal Acharya, a Nepali-origin shareholder. Ncell asserts that Spectrlite emerged as the top bidder among several competitors. According to the company, the pricing and structure of the share transaction were determined by the negotiations between interested buyers and sellers.

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