Reuters - A consortium of Indian telecom companies and a Malaysian investor are set to buy a 46 percent stake in Kuwaiti telecom firm Zain, marking one of the biggest overseas acquisitions into the Gulf region.
India’s little-known Vavasi Group, state-owned telecoms firm Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd and state-run Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd, and Malaysian billionaire Syed Mokhtar al-Bukhary make up the consortium.
The group will pay 2 dinars a share, valuing the stake in the Arab world’s third-largest telecoms company at about $13.7 billion.
Here are some facts about the Indian companies and the Malaysian investor.
VAVASI GROUP www.vavasi.com/
* Vavasi Group is headquartered in New Delhi and has interests in telecoms, real estate, renewable energy, steel and cement, according to its website.
* The little-known company came to attention in February when it announced a $9 billion investment to set up a silicon manufacturing complex in the western Indian state of Rajasthan.
* Next Generation Telecommunications India Private Ltd, a group company, had applied for telecoms licences in 2007 for all of India’s 22 zones, but is still in the queue along with some other applicants including AT&T.
* Vavasi plans to start wireless telecoms services in India based on the Chinese TD-SCDMA (Time Division Synchronous Code Division Multiple Access) technology, according to local media reports.
BHARAT SANCHAR NIGAM LTD (BSNL) www.bsnl.co.in
* State-owned BSNL [BSNL.UL] is India’s fourth-largest mobile operator with 56 million subscribers at end-July. The company also has 28.6 million fixed-line subscribers to be India’s second-largest telecom firm by subscribers, trailing only market leader Bharti Airtel.
* BSNL has said it is keen expand into Africa and Middle Eastern countries. Chairman Kuldeep Goyal said in June the company had cash of more than $6 billion and would not hesitate to make a big acquisition.
* Last year, the unlisted firm’s board had approved divesting a 10 percent stake through an initial public offering, which it said could raise up to $10 billion. However, opposition from its employee unions and some members of the coalition government forced it to shelve the plan.
MAHANAGAR TELEPHONE NIGAM LTD (MTNL) www.mtnl.net.in
* MTNL operates in India’s two largest cities, New Delhi and Mumbai. The New York-listed firm has also been on the lookout for opportunities to expand into Africa.
* MTNL operates in Nepal through a joint venture called United Telecom Ltd and also in Mauritius through a unit, Mahanagar Telephone Mauritius Ltd (MTML).
* MTNL has submitted interest in a stake being sold in Nigerian telecoms firm Nitel, the country’s Bureau of Public Enterprises said on Sept 2.
* Syed Mokhtar is linked to Malaysian firms including transport-to-construction group MMC, automotive and property firm DRB-Hicom and plantation company Tradewinds.
* SKS Group, also linked to Syed Mokhtar, signed gas deals worth $14 billion with Iran late last year to produce liquefied natural gas and develop two gas fields.
* Syed Mokhtar began his career as a rice and cattle trader in ex-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s home state of Kedah. He quit formal schooling early to help his father’s cattle trading, branching later into beef, rice and transport. The low-profile tycoon was regarded as having close links to Mahathir.
* Syed Mokhtar, in his 50s, is known to be active in charity works, funding the Islamic Arts Museum in Kuala Lumpur and a mosque-and-school complex in Kedah.
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