NEW DELHI (AFP) – India’s Essar group, which has a minority stake in the nation’s fourth-largest mobile phone group Hutchison Essar, is poised to offer 14 billion dollars to buy out majority shareholder Hutchison Telecommunications, the Economic Times said.
The steel-to-shipping Essar Group is waiting for Britain’s Vodafone, the world’s biggest mobile phone company, and other contenders to submit their bids to Hutchison Telecommunications International before making a formal offer, said the newspaper, quoting unnamed sources with knowledge of the plans.
The battle for Hutchison Essar has been heating up as companies compete for a slice of the world’s fastest-growing major mobile market, analysts say.
“The Essar Group prefers to buy out Hutch’s stake in Hutch Essar and has valued the company at 21 to 22 billion dollars,” the Economic Times quoted an unnamed source as saying.
“For this, it is looking at borrowing about 13 billion dollars — the financing pledges it has received (are) far in excess of this requirement,” the source said.
Hutchison Telecommunications International is 67-percent owned by Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa which is controlled by the Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing.
An Essar spokesman could not be reached for comment but the newspaper said that Essar, which controls 33 percent of Hutchison Essar, had declined comment.
Essar has first right of refusal to buy Hutchison Telecom’s stake in Hutchison Essar.
Last week, India’s second-largest telecoms company Reliance Communications signalled it was in the race to take over rival Hutchison Essar to create India’s biggest mobile phone company.
Reliance Communications has called a board meeting January 10 to raise funds from overseas markets through the issue of securities, the newspaper said.
Last week, London’s Financial Times said Vodafone had approached Hutchison Essar with an offer of 17 billion to 18 billion dollars.
Meanwhile, the Business Standard reported that Indian outsourcing group Hinduja TMT plans to join the race to buy Hutchison’s majority stake in Hutchison Essar.
“We will definitely place our proposal before Hutchison Whampoa. We have written to Hutchison Whampoa enquiring if it indeed wants to sell its shareholding in Hutchison Essar,” Ashok P. Hinduja, executive chairman of Hinduja TMT, told the Business Standard newspaper.
Hinduja TMT divested its 5.11 percent stake in the company in June in line with the group’s policy of remaining only in those companies in which it holds a majority.
Hutchison Whampoa did not want to sell its stake at that time so “we did not find merit in holding on to a minority stake in Hutchsion Essar,” Hinduja said.