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Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005

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BPL Mobile in talks to sell up to 49% stake

Our Bureau

Mumbai , April 25

BPL Mobile is in talks for selling up to a 49 per cent stake to a strategic partner. The company on Tuesday said it plans to invest Rs 625 crore for strengthening its cellular network.

The company is planning to partner with another telecom company, similar to its erstwhile partnerships with France Telecom and AT&T. It has appointed JM Morgan Stanley as the investment banker for the proposed deal. The company hopes to go in for an initial public offering (IPO), said Mr Sandip Basu, President and Chief Executive Officer, BPL Mobile. "Although we are looking at going for an IPO once the strategic investor comes in, we may also consider going in for a listing if no investor comes in soon," said Mr Basu on the sidelines of a conference to announce BPL's annual performance.

The privately-held company announced annual revenues were up 40 per cent at Rs 1,012.2 crore compared to Rs 728.5 crore in the year-ago period. Profit before interest, tax and depreciation went up 42 per cent to Rs 406.6 crore (Rs 287 crore).

Mr Krishna Angara, Executive Vice-President BPL Mobile, said this was the most profitable year in a decade. The company added 15 lakh new customers across the country last financial year, of which 5 lakh were in Mumbai. BPL is a GSM cellular service company in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Pondicherry, Maharashtra and Goa.

This year, it plans to capture a 35 per cent market share in the above States and will extend its network to 225 new towns. It will also invest in adding 800 base stations this fiscal, as part of `Project Rapid Growth.'

The company continues to be in talks for selling between 26 to 49 per cent stake to another partner — preferably, a foreign telecom company. In December, France Telecom sold its 26 per cent stake in the company to a consortium of investors. Of this, the Essar Group, which is also one of the promoters of the Orange brand, bought 9.9 per cent. BPL Mobile has a Rs 1,700-crore debt in its books.

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