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Batelco completes deal for Indian mobile operator

Bahrain-based operator takes 49% share in S Tel for $225 million.

A Batelco-led consortium yesterday completed the acquisition of a 49% shareholding in Indian mobile operator S Tel Limited for $225 million.

S Tel has yet to launch, but it has licenses to operate in six out of the 23 Indian states in North East and North West India, where the population is approximately 230 million and mobile penetration is less than 20%.

Batelco Group CEO Peter Kaliaropoulos said: “Conditions precedent have been satisfied and Batelco has completed the first phase of its investment in S Tel. Batelco now holds a 36.9% share of S Tel and in the coming months the shareholding will increase to 49%.”

He added that the priority would now be to assist S Tel in accelerating the roll-out of its network infrastructure in readiness for its launch in the fourth quarter of 2009.

The mobile market in India is one of the fastest growing in the world. Data from the country’s telecom regulator showed that last month Indian mobile operators added 15.6 million customers, helped by networks’ drive into smaller towns and rural areas.

Batelco Chairman Sheikh Hamad said the operator plans to further extend its geographical footprint with additional acquisitions across the Middle East and Africa, India and the Asia Pacific region.

With the addition of the India shareholding, Batelco now has operations in seven markets across the Middle East, North Africa and Asia.