Japan’s NTT DoCoMo and European telecom giant France Telecom are now the front runners to pick a strategic stake in Tata Teleservices (TTSL). The deal is expected to be valued at around Rs 5,000 crore (~$1.2 billion) for 12% stake. As per this report, Tatas are in the final stages to dilute their stake in the country’s sixth-largest telecom operator (with around 28 million subscribers) and a deal is expected to be announced in the next two months.
The report adds that the stake sale could be to the tune of 12% even though the bids by the investors have been for 26% stake for Rs 10,000 crore. TTSL is expected to use the money for expansion in the CDMA and the soon-to-be-launched GSM services (which would pull in investments worth around $2 billion).
Tatas have been talking to various possible investors for over six months now. Among the names which have been reportedly in the fray include UAE’s Etisalat, Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim-controlled TelCel and Russian telecom major Altimo.
DoCoMo is eyeing its maiden entry into India even as it has had some tie-ups in the past. In December 2006, DoCoMo had inked an agreement with Hutchison Essar (now Vodafone Essar) for its I-mode services, which include online games, videos and access to content. However, this deal was subsequently cancelled due to changes in regulation.
For France Telecom it could mark a return to the Indian market which it exited in the middle of the telecom boom. France Telecom was a 26% partner in BPL Mobile before it sold off the stake to a consortium of investors in January 2005. Thereafter it had roped in Moser Baer as a JV partner to offer long-distance services last year. It also acquired the IT services division of GTL in 2007.
The ET report adds that NRI serial entrepreneur C Sivasankaran who has made a fortune buying and selling companies and who owns 8% in TTSL (having bought it for Rs 1,200 crore in March 2006 from Tata Sons), may divest a part of his stake to the new investor. This is even as most of the fund infusion would take place by way of issue of new shares. Temasek currently holds 9.9% in TTSL having paid around Rs 1,500 crore for its equity.
The firm is also looking to sell out 49% stake in TTSL’s tower business. This unrelated deal may close in a few months and is likely to fetch around Rs 10,000 crore.