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Bharti dials foreign buyout number

Jaipur, May 9: Bharti Tele-Ventures Ltd is planning to acquire companies in East Asia, West Asia and Africa. It also intends to raise Rs 3,000 crore through a planned overseas listing.

The Bharti Group firm is considering acquiring one more company in the country in this financial year following its recent acquisition of Hexacom in Rajasthan.

The company is bullish about inorganic growth as part of its future expansion plans at home and abroad.

Bharti Group chairman and group managing director Sunil Bharti Mittal said, “We do not plan any acquisition in Europe as most of the companies are major players and beyond our reach. But in Africa, West Asia and East Asia, we are exploring buyout opportunities. Within the country, we expect a consolidation in the market with smaller players being gobbled up by a minimum of four or a maximum of five operators by the year-end. We will pick up at least one more company this year.”

He said only those companies that have invested in an integrated telecom business (like national and international long distance, fixed-line and mobile phone services and broadband) will survive. According to the trend, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd, Bharti, Reliance Infocomm and the Tatas will be the major operators. “There may be a fifth operator for a few years, but eventually, it will come down to four. It is difficult to predict whether Idea will take over Hutch or the reverse will happen,” said Mittal.

Asked about the company's plans to list overseas and go for an American depository receipt (ADR) issue, Mittal said Bharti is waiting for the government approval for its planned issue. Bharti plans to raise up to Rs 3000 crore through this issue by offering a stake of up to 10 per cent in Bharti Tele-Ventures.

“We feel that it is necessary to have resources ready if an acquisition opportunity arises. It will also help us to mange the debt equity ratio in the company. But, we cannot go overseas to tap the market as we are awaiting the clearance from the government,” said Mittal.

Mittal said a provision of Rs 700 crore for 2004-05 has already been finalised through loans and internal resources to expand its existing network and acquire a few new licences.

The company was open to sharing its infrastructure with other operators in the country.

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