India-based Essar Group has purchased a direct 80% stake in Essar Telecom Kenya (ETK) after buying out Econet Wireless Kenya, Daily Nation reports. Essar had previously held an indirect stake in the mobile operator via its 49% holding in parent company Econet Wireless Group. ETK, which trades under the ‘yu’ brand, currently operates networks in Nairobi and Mombasa and plans to expand its coverage nationwide over the next five years, with the takeover facilitating a USD450 million rollout. ETK CEO, Srinivasa Iyengar, said: ‘Previously, we had a 35% stake which was holding us back in accessing funds from lenders. But now we have enough money to see us through our expansion programme. We have already received USD50 million in funding and the rest will be coming in phases in a five-year plan… The journey has been long for this brand but with the nationwide reach, we can now compete with the rest of the operators.’ Until April 2009 ETK was known as Econet Wireless Kenya but was rebranded to dissuade persistent media speculation that Essar was considering selling its stake in the company.