Vodafone Group has agreed to buy a 10% stake in India’s largest cellco Bharti Tele-Ventures, for a total cash consideration of GBP820 million (USD1.463 billion). The UK-owned giant is set to acquire a 4.39% holding in Bharti subsidiary Bharti Enterprises and a 5.61% direct interest in Bharti from Warburg Pincus. The transactions are expected to be confirmed by the end of November 2005. At the end of last month Bharti had a 21.8% share of the mobile market with 14.07 million subscribers to its AirTel GSM brand. It is one of only three operators with a national network footprint. Its largest foreign shareholder is Singapore Telecom which owns a 30.84% stake.
India is the third largest mobile market in Asia with 65.1 million subscribers at the end of September 2005, having grown 53% year-on-year. Despite only trailing China and Japan in customer numbers, just 6% of Indians have a mobile phone, compared to western Europe where several countries have mobile penetration rates of over 100%.