Hutchison likely to announce exit from India soon

Hutchison likely to announce exit from India soon
Hong Kong/London, Dec 22 (PTI) Hutchison Telecommunications International Ltd is likely to inform the local bourse shortly that it would exit the Indian market, where it is present through a joint venture Hutch-Essar.

The move is expected in the backdrop of world's largest telecom player Vodafone's announcement that it could buy a controlling stake in the JV company, which is being valued up to an estimated 17 billion dollars (nearly Rs 76,000 crore).

"HTIL... Has been approached by various potentially interested parties regarding a possible sale of its equity interest in Hutchison Essar Limited, the company's mobile operations in India.

"No agreement in respect of such possible sale has been entered into up to today's date. The company reiterates that there is no assurance that a sale may result from these approaches," HTIL said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Malaysia's Maxis Communications, where Hutch-Essar's Deputy Managing Director Sandeep Das has recently takeover as CEO, is understood to have informed HTIL about its intention to acquire the Indian venture, possibly at about 14 billion dollars.

Maxis made its move earlier this week, but there was no official confirmation with its spokesperson declining to comment on speculation.

It was, however, not clear if Maxis would continue to be in the fray and increase the valuation in the wake of the announcement by Vodafone, which is expected to be pitted against Reliance Communications, an Anil Ambani group company, that has reportedly made arrangements for raising 15 billion dollars from the market for the buy.

Meanwhile, Reliance Communications, India's second largest mobile operator considered to be a front-runner for acquiring fourth largest Hutch-Essar, was conspicuous by its silence after Vodafone said it intends to buy the Indian joint venture.

Asked for comments in the wake of British telecom giant Vodafone's announcement, an RComm spokesperson said: "No comments."

RComm, which is understood to have tied up with four US equity funds including Blackstone and Texas Pacific, is reportedly looking at higher valuation for Hutch-Essar, whose enterprise value it earlier estimated at 13-14 billion USD.

Electronic media had reported yesterday that RComm had valued Hutch-Essar Ltd (HEL) at 17 billion dollar, but there was no official confirmation whether or not the company had placed its bid.

Nimesh Kampani of JM Morgan Stanley, who is considered close to both Anil Ambani and Essar's Ruias, is understood to be in the picture as it would be crucial for RComm to ensure the exit of Ruias, who hold 33 per cent stake in the venture, for the ADAG company to overcome regulatory hurdles.

JM Morgan Stanley could not be contacted for comments.

While Ruias, who hold the trump card, are still weighing their options of staying put or selling out, the group's vice chairman Ravi Ruia had been camping in London till yesterday coinciding with Vodafone's confabulation with regard to the HEL bid.

It is understood that Ruias can continue in the venture, with Vodafone as the foreign partner in place of HTIL, whose officials were presumably in touch with the UK-based telecom giant.

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