Vodafone seeking approval for $2.7 billion buyout in India venture

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Vodafone seeking approval for $2.7 billion buyout in India venture
British telecom giant Vodafone is learnt to have applied to government for raising its stake in its Indian arm to 100 percent at an estimated USD 2.7 billion (Rs. 16,600 crore).

Industry sources said Monday Vodafone has applied to Foreign Investment Permission Board (FIPB) for permission to raise its stake in Vodafone India from 74 percent to 100 percent.

While Vodafone did not immediately revert back emails sent for comments, Vodafone India spokesperson Rohit Adya remained unreachable.

Vodafone has raised its stake to 74 percent in Vodafone Essar Ltd (VEL) by buying shares of Essar in the company in 2011. The British major bought Essar's 33 percent stake in VEL for USD 5.46 billion in July, 2011.

After buying Essar's 33 percent, Vodafone's stake in VEL was going above the 74 percent FDI limit permitted at that time. Vodafone transferred 1.35 percent stake to an Indian investor to remain compliant with the existing sectoral FDI norms.

Piramal Healthcare in August, 2011 bought 5.5 per stake in the Vodafone India for about Rs. 2,900 crore.

According to sources, Piramal Healthcare now holds about 11 percent stake in Vodafone India and Max India's founder Analjit Singh owns about 6 percent.

Vodafone has already started the exercise for equity valuation to buy out entire stake of its India partners, sources said.

In April 2013, Piramal Group Chairman Ajay Piramal had said the company had invested in Vodafone with 24-36 month

exit plan and would sell the stake either sometime this year or the next.

The government in August approved 100 percent foreign direct investment (FDI) in the telecom sector, meeting a key demand of the fund-starved industry. It was decided to increase FDI cap in telecom to 100 percent from 74 percent.

Vodafone India had registered 24.5 percent jump in operating profit to Rs. 10,640.6 crore for the financial year ended March 31, 2013.

The revenues of the company jumped 10.2 percent to Rs. 35,885.8 crore for 2012-13 fiscal, as against Rs. 32,564.3 crore in the previous financial year.

The company has invested over Rs. 54,000 crore since 2007 till end of March 2013. Vodafone India had over 15.5 crore mobile customers in the country by end of June 2013.

The British telecom major is facing a tax liability of over Rs. 11,200 crore, along with interest, on its 2007 acquisition of Hutchison Whampoa's stake in Hutchison Essar.

Last month, Verizon Communications agreed to pay USD 130 billion to buy Vodafone Group out of its US wireless business.

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Further reading: Vodafone, Vodafone India, telecom
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