Malaysia’s Maxis Communications has acquired Indian cellco Aircel for USD1.08 billion. Maxis fought off a rival bid from Telekom Malaysia to take control of the Chennai-based GSM operator. The deal follows the Indian government’s recent move to allow foreign investors to own up to 74% of domestic operators. Maxis will own 65% of Aircel directly, with the remainder held by its Indian joint venture partner, the Reddy family.
Aircel launched in April 1999 in the Tamil Nadu circle at the southern tip of India. It also operates in the metro region circle of Chennai and under the Digilink brand in Haryana, but remains one of the country’s smallest and most limited operators, with GSM network coverage of only 6% of the population. It provides GSM services in 362 towns in Tamil Nadu, and at the end of September 2005 it had 2.09 million subscribers. In June 2004 Aircel’s parent the Sterling Infotech Group signed an agreement to sell the operator to Hutchison Telecom. However, Hutch pulled out of the deal in early 2005 after failing to win regulatory approval for the takeover.