Qatar joins bidding war for Hutchison Essar

Qatar Telecom has joined a queue of suitors looking to buy India's 4th largest mobile operator.

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By  Reuters Published  February 10, 2007

Qatar Telecom is teaming up with India's Hinuja Group to bid for control of fourth-largest Indian mobile operator, Hutchison Essar Ltd., the Wall Street Journal said on Thursday.

The partnership is one of four groups hoping to buy Hutchison Telecom's 67 percent stake in the Indian operator, the paper reported in its Asia edition, citing people familiar with the situation.

The Hinduja group had already confirmed its interest in Hutchison Essar.

Europe's most valuable telecoms company, Vodafone Group Plc, India's Reliance Communications Ltd., and Hutchison's local partner Essar are also vying for the stake. The Essar group controls the remaining 33 percent of the firm.

Doha-based Qatar Telecom, the sixth-largest Gulf telecoms firm, is focused on its domestic market, but hopes to expand into regions such as Africa and Asia as well as the Middle East, the Wall Street Journal said.

On Wednesday the Hindustan Times newspaper said Hutchison Telecom, controlled by Hong Kong's Hutchison Whampoa, may sell its stake through an open auction with a minimum reserve price of about $14 billion.

India's mobile phone market is growing by about 6 million users a month, although tariffs can be as low as 1 or 2 U.S. cents a minute.

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