Hinduja serious about Hutch-Essar, formal bid soon

Friday, 26 January 2007, 06:00 Hrs
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Davos: The Europe-based Hindujas said the group was serious in its bid to acquire Hutchison Whampoa's stake in the Indian telecom service venture Hutch-Essar and would make a formal bid soon.

"We are serious. That's why we have entered the fray," said Prakash P. Hinduja on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum here, adding that the due diligence of Hutch-Essar was currently underway and a competitive bid would be submitted thereafter.

The Hindujas last June had exited Hutch-Essar by selling its 5.11 per cent stake for $450 million.

"That time we wanted to divest and we told Hutch about this. But they were not ready. So we were waiting for the right opportunity. This is a great opportunity for us to enter India's telecom market in a big way," A.P. Hinduja, elder brother of Prakash Hinduja, had earlier told IANS in New Delhi.

The Hong Kong-based business tycoon Li Ka-Shing's Hutchison Whampoa holds 67 percent stake in Hutch, which it is trying to sell to potential bidders.

According to industry sources, the board of Hutchison Telecom International Ltd (HTIL) is expected to meet Jan 29 in Hong Kong.

Beside Hindujas, British mobile giant Vodafone, Anil Ambani's Reliance Communication (RCOM) have also formally joined the fierce race.

Currently Vodafone holds 9.9 percent stake in Bharti Airtel and for it to emerge successful in its bid for rival Hutch-Essar, the company has to exit from Bharti's board.

"Vodaphone has aspirations of running telecom business in India and having some management say. But that is not available in the Bharti group. So we have no problems if they look elsewhere," Bharti group's chairman and managing director Sunil Bharti Mittal said on the margins of the World Economic Forum.

Vodafone's India-born chief executive Arun Sarin had earlier said that the company will announce a formal bid early next month.
Source: IANS
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