Aircel Owner-Sun Deal Under Lens

Months after Aircel got licences in 2006,a Maxis group co invested 830 cr in Sun Direct TV


Investigating agencies probing the allotment of telecom licences since 2001 are scrutinising a transaction between Sun Direct TV Pvt Limited,an operator of direct-tohome television services,and Malaysian firm Astro All Asia Networks.Sun Direct is part of the Sun Group,a media group owned by Kalanithi Maran,the brother of DMK leader and Textile Minister Dayanidhi Maran.Astro is controlled by Malaysian billionaire T Ananda Krishnan,who also owns Maxis Communications,a telecom firm which has majority stake in Aircel,an Indian cellular phone company.In December 2006,the Aircel Group which included Aircel Ltd and Dishnet Wireless was granted 14 new telecom licences by the department of telecommunications headed by Dayanidhi,who was the telecom minister at the time.Four months later,in April 2007,Astro,through its Mauritius-based subsidiary South Asia Entertainment Holding Limited (SAEHL),announced that it intended to invest approximately $166 million,or 830 crore,in subscribing to 20% of the enlarged capital of Sun Direct.At the time when Aircel received the licences,applications of Idea and Spice Communications,two other cellular companies,were still pending.Investigators are examining the transaction because SAEHL paid a premium of almost 70 per share at a time Sun Direct had not commenced operations.Documents filed by the company with the registrar of companies (RoC) reveal that the firm had only two shareholders,Kalanithi Maran and Kavery Kalanithi.The two were also directors of the company at that point.SAEHL subsequently invested $166 million,starting December 10,2007,in buying 6.9 crore new equity shares with a face value of 10 per share representing 20% of the enlarged capital of Sun Direct TV.The total share capital after the money came in stood at approximately 19.8 crore equity shares.