Telenor chairman resigns over TV network sale

Telenor’s chairman Harald Norvik has tendered his resignation citing criticism of his handling of the sale of the country’s main commercial television channel from a Norwegian government minister as his reason.

Media company A-Pressen ASA, which is jointly owned by Telenor and the country’s labour unions, owned a 50 per cent stake in TV2, before selling it in January for NOK2.1bn ($365m) to privately owned Danish media group Egmont, which co-founded the channel and owned the remaining 50 per cent of the channel.

The Norwegian government also owns 54 per cent of Telenor, and according to a Telenor spokesperson, Minister of trade and industry Trond Giske had been keen for Telenor to sell the stake of such a valuable national asset to a Norwegian firm rather than to Egmont.

Norvik said that Giske has now “expressed a lack of confidence in him”, following the handling of the TV2 issue. “I have therefore decided to step down as chairman of Telenor,” he added.

More recently, in April, the Norwegian operator was also forced to write down its assets in India, worth NOK3.9bn ($680m), following the Indian Supreme Court’s cancellation of all 2G spectrum licences awarded in 2008, due to corruption allegations. The company is in legal battles with its partner in India, real estate firm Unitech, and is seeking compensation for its losses.

Telenor said that the specific issue cited for the lack of confidence between Giske and Norvik was the TV2 sale, but admitted that it was also part of a broader assessment of the firm’s activity and the chairman’s role in recent times.

Norvik will continue as chairman of the Board until a new chairman has been elected by the Corporate Assembly. Norvik has served as Chairman since 31 May 2007.

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