NRI businessman C Sivasankaran may just be planning a re-entry into India's rapidly growing telecommunications market. Economic Times reports that Sivasankaran is in talks to buy the stake of one of the private equity promoters who hold a 51% stake in S Tel, a Chennai-based
company holding license in six states. Sivasankaran, known as Siva, sold his stake in Aircel for $1.08 billion to Maxis Telecom in 2005.
Earlier this year, S Tel sold a 49% stake to Gulf-based Bahrain Telecommunications Co and Millennium Private Equity for $225 million. S Tel has licenses to operate in 6 Indian states - Bihar, Orissa, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, North East and Assam. The company can also provide broadband services across the country as it has a Category A ISP license.
S Tel is promoted by Skycity Foundations and Mauritius-based Telecom Investments. The real identity of the investors of S Tel is not known. The directors of the company, as mentioned on the company website, are S Natarajan, Santhosh Robert and Padmavathy Suresh.
Siva's re-entry come on the backdrop of the term of his non-compete agreement, which he had signed Maxis Telecom, ending in March this year. He was also barred from buying more than a 10% stake in an Indian telecom firm. In the meantime Siva bought a 8.6% stake in Tata Teleservices Rs 1,200 crore in 2006, which fell to to 6% after Japan's NTT DoCoMo bought 26% stake earlier this year. He is also said to have invested Rs 350-400 crore in Unitech Wireless.
Siva has made fortunes buying, turning around and then selling Indian companies. His investment firm is known as Siva Ventures. Besides Aircel, he sold coffee chain Barista, which he bought over for Rs 65 crore (~$15 million) to Italian chain Lavazza for $125 million. Another one of his investments was Tamilnad Mercantile Bank.