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BPL Mobile dials ally number

Mumbai, April 25: BPL Mobile Communications plans to sell up to 40 per cent to a strategic partner and invest Rs 625 crore in expansion.

The company has, however, not fixed a time-frame for the stake sale, president and CEO Sandip Basu said today.

In December, France Telecom sold its 26 per cent stake in the company to a consortium of investors. The Essar group had bought 9.9 per cent of that holding.

BPL Mobile officials, however, describe the French major as 'financial', not 'strategic' investors. A strategic investor would stay with the group over the long term, they said.

The Rajeev Chandrashekhar-owned firm plans to invest Rs 625 crore to expand its network in Mumbai, Maharashtra, Goa, Kerala, Pondicherry and Tamil Nadu in 2005-06, a year in which it aims to sign up 1.5 million users. Enthused by the success of 'operation accelerated clawback' the company today launched 'project rapid growth'.

'Operation accelerated clawback triggered a phase of unprecedented growth in the decade-long history of BPL Mobile. The best example of this is that over five lakh new customers in Mumbai and 1 million across the country chose BPL Mobile,' Basu said.

'Project rapid growth envisages an investment of Rs 625 crore and an increase in revenues to Rs 1,300 crore.

BPL Mobile said operating profit jumped 35 per cent to Rs 406.6 crore in 2004-05 from Rs 287 crore in the previous financial year.

Launched last year, 'operation accelerated clawback' has seen the company's revenues in the last financial year leap 39 per cent to Rs 1,012.2 crore from the previous year's Rs 728.5 crore. This includes a growth of 50 per cent in monthly revenues in Maharashtra, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

BPL Mobile's operating profits also grew 42 per cent to Rs 406.6 crore from Rs 287 crore in 2003-04.

The company shrugs off the money pumped in by Essar Teleholdings as financial investment. However, Essar is a rival too since it partners Hutch in Mumbai.

BPL is focussing on technology and value-added products to ensure that it does not only retain customers but also adds more of them.

'Under project rapid growth, we will continue to invest in technology to deliver new products and services besides enhancing our service standards.

'We intend to add 225 new towns and over 800 base stations this fiscal. With the project, BPL Mobile aims to capture 35 per cent of the new customers who come to the market,' says Krishna Angara, EVP-business operations of BPL Mobile.

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