Etisalat mulls options for Indian investment
Etisalat holds back from Reliance Communications deal and considers other options in India
UAE incumbent Etisalat said it is unlikely to buy a stake in Reliance Communications this year, but is continuing to evaluate other opportunities including a possible investment in Idea Cellular, India's third largest GSM operator, according to a report from Reuters.
Jamal Al-Jarwan, Etisalat's CEO for international investments, said any deal with Reliance Communications would be unlikely "in the near future" and "definitely not this year."
In July, the UK's Financial Times reported that Etisalat was close to buying a 26% stake in Reliance Communications, India's second-largest mobile operator.
Reliance Communications, which has about 100 million subscribers, said that it planned to sell a 26% stake in the company in June, shortly after spending about $1.8 billion on 3G spectrum in India.
There has been speculation that Etisalat's reluctance to rush into a deal with Reliance Communications could stem the Indian operator's level of debt, which could drive down the price of a stake in the firm in the coming months.
Reliance Communication's failure this week to secure a deal to sell much of its network infrastructure to GTL Infrastructure, an independent cell tower company, has added to its debt problems.
Reliance Infratel, the operator's infrastructure arm, had been planning to sell some 50,000 cell towers to GTL in a deal that would have reduced Reliance Communications' $7.1 billion debt by about $3.9 billion, according to a report from Bloomberg.