British wireless giant Vodafone Group is planning to join the race to acquire Hutchison Essar, the Indian mobile operator owned by Hong Kong’s Hutchison Telecommunications International Ltd (HTIL), reports The Economic Times without citing sources. It said the UK-based firm is in discussions with bankers and advisors on the strategy to be adopted. Previous media reports said that India’s Reliance Communications (RCOM) and Malaysia’s Maxis Communications are also in the fray along with many private-equity firms.
The Economic Times also reports that Vodafone is also exploring the option of selling its stake in rival cellco Bharti Airtel and that its banker, UBS, has been asked to explore options for the sale. Vodafone purchased 10% of the Bharti Group last year in deal worth more than INR60 billion (USD1.34 billion). About 5% was bought in Bharti Enterprises, the holding company, while the rest is held via a direct stake in the listed company Bharti Airtel. The combined 10% holding has been valued at INR160 billion.