India's Reliance Comm buys U.S. ethernet firm Yipes

Reliance Communications Ltd., India's second-biggest mobile services provider, said on Monday it was buying U.S.-based Yipes Holdings Inc. for $300 million cash, the latest in a wave of foreign buys by Indian firms.

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By  Reuters Published  July 17, 2007

Reliance Communications Ltd., India's second-biggest mobile services provider, said on Monday it was buying U.S.-based Yipes Holdings Inc. for $300 million cash, the latest in a wave of foreign buys by Indian firms.

San Francisco-based Yipes, a provider of managed ethernet and application delivery services, offered Reliance an opportunity to tap a fast-growing market, Chairman Anil Ambani told a news conference.

"Yipes will accelerate Reliance's entry into the $90 billion global market for enterprise and institutional data services," he said.

The ethernet market alone was valued at $10 billion, Ambani said, addding it was forecast to grow at a compounded annual rate of about 30 percent to more than $25 billion by 2010.

Reliance Communications bought Yipes from a group of investors including JP Morgan and venture capital firms Norwest Venture Partners, Sprout Group and Crosslink Capital.

The acquisition is the latest in a wave of non-domestic M&A deals by Indian companies, aiming to penetrate new markets and access the latest technology by acquiring foreign firms.

Outbound Indian M&A deals this year total $15.1 billion from 99 deals, not including Monday's deal, according to data from Dealogic. That compares with $5.8 billion from 85 deals in the same period last year, and $21.7 billion from 167 deals in the whole of 2006.

Deals this year include Hindalco Industries purchase of Canada's Novelis Inc in February, and several purchases by drug makers such as Ranbaxy Laboratories and Dr. Reddy's Laboratories .

India's biggest foreign takeover, Tata Steel's $12 billion acquisition of the Corus Group, is counted in the 2006 figures because it was announced in October 2006, although the deal was not completed until 2007.

Shares in Reliance Communications hit a record high of 577.40 rupees on Monday, and closed up 3.5 percent at 574.05 in a Mumbai market that rose 0.25 percent.

Yipes will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Reliance Communication's undersea cable unit, Flag Telecom, which it bought in 2003 for about $209 million.

Reliance said it would expand Yipes' coverage to 30 metro cities in the United States, from 14 at present, and would also take it to Asia, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

"Even if we take a conservative 5 percent of the overall global market, it will be a high margin business over the next few years," Ambani said.

Reliance Communications competes with top mobile firm Bharti Airtel and Vodafone-controlled Hutchison Essar in India, the world's fastest growing mobile market. It has more than 35 million subscribers, including fixed-line and Internet.

The company said in April it would take a decision in the next six months on "unlocking value" in its Reliance Telecom Infrastructure unit, and a potential listing of Flag Telecom.

"As far as unlocking of value (in Flag) is concerned ... it will happen during the course of this year," Ambani said on Monday. On Reliance Telecom Infrastructure, he said: "Sooner than later."

In April, Ambani said strategic partnerships or private equity investment in the two units were also being considered.

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