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Investors said to be buying 30% in Aircel for $350m

Our Corporate Bureau  |  Chennai 

A group of led by US-based is reported to be in the process of picking up a 30 per cent stake in the ( GSM cellular service provider in the Chennai and Tamil Nadu telecom circles) for $350 million.
The Aircel group, however, declined to comment on the issue. CEO responded with, "No comments," when asked about the investment.
The current situation has come about after Aircel's non-binding agreement with Russia's to sell a 49 per cent stake in the for $450 million lapsed at the end of last fiscal.
After the Sistema deal lapsed, Aircel officials indicated that they remained open to selling a stake in the company.
Reports indicate that Aircel is to offload its 30 per cent holding in two phases. The sale is to be completed in about a month's time, and the company would eventually make a public offer.
Aircel currently has a subscriber base of 1.7 million in the Chennai and Tamil Nadu circles. The company has grown its subscriber base by 53 per cent in both the circles put together over the last year.
While Aircel is believed to be keen on selling its stake in Chennai and Tamil Nadu circles to part-finance its Rs 2,000 crore telecom rollout plans in northern and eastern parts of country such as Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, company officials have said Aircel's attempts to sell its stake are unrelated to the expansion plans.
The C Sivasankaran-promoted Sterling Infotech group, which controls Aircel, has seen two attempts to sell a stake in it fail.
Prior to the deal, the group, in June 2004, entered in to a deal with Hutchison Essar to sell 49 per cent stake in Aircel for $362 million. The deal ended when the union government approval for it did not come through.
Other than cellular business, the Sterling Infotech group has interests in the wireless data business too.
Group company, Dishnet Wireless, recently launched Wi-Fi services. This is to be followed by WiMax services, which is to act as the wireless broadband medium for both retail and corporate customers.


First Published: Mon, June 20 2005. 00:00 IST