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Singapore Telecom (Singtel) ups stake in BTVL via Bharti Telecom
20th May 2005: Singapore Telecom (Singtel) has increased its stake in Bharti Tele-ventures to 30.84% by infusing $252 million. Singtel's has bought shares worth $252 million of the unlisted Bharti Telecom - the parent company of Bharati Tele-ventures. Meanwhile, Bharti has decided not to proceed with the proposed secondary overseas issue of up to 20 crore equity shares due to lack of interest by shareholders.

"Bharti Tele-ventures had in July 2004 announced its intention to proceed with a sponsored American Depository Receipt (ADR) secondary offering of up to 20 crore equity shares. The board of directors of BTVL has decided not to proceed with the proposed ADR due to lack of sponsorship interest by most of its principal shareholders," the company said in a statement.

"Singtel's increase in stake is an expression of confidence in India, a growth story of Indian telecom and in BTVL -- its performance, management team and its role in shaping the Indian telecom industry," Bharti spokesperson said. Singtel's stake in BTVL has been increased through its subsidiary Pastel Ltd, which has increased the stake in Bharti Telecom to 32.81% from 26.96%.

Hutch-Essar buy of BPL's Mumbai circle may be first intra-circle merger
19th May 2005: Essar is negotiating with all the Indian and foreign partners on a one-on-one basis, sources said. The acquisition of the Mumbai circle by Hutchison-Essar would, if it goes through, be the first intra-circle merger in the country. The combined subscriber base of BPL Mobile (12.3 lakhs) and Hutch (15.2 lakh) is about 53% of the total mobile subscriber base of 52 lakhs in the Mumbai circle (as per April-end user numbers). The merged entity should not have more than 67% marketshare, according to the department of telecommunications (DoT) guidelines.

The acquisition of BPL Mobile, if it happens, would improve valuations for Hutchison-Essar’s IPO. When contacted, Vikas Saraf, CEO of Essar Teleholdings, refused to comment. Rajeev Chandrashekhar, chairman of BPL Mobile was not available for comment. Later, an official spokesperson of BPL denied that it had finalised any deal with Essar. Despite several attempts, Hutch officials could not be reached for comment. However, informed sources close to Hutchison denied that they were in any way involved with Essar in its proposed deal with BPL Mobile. This, despite the fact that Hutchison and Essar have been JV partners for several years now.

Essar sources have always maintained that their telecom plans were being pursued independently of Hutchison. For instance, Essar had acquired 9.9% stake in BPL Mobile’s Mumbai circle after the exit of France Telecom. That acquisition had been described by both Hutch and Essar officials as an “investment’’ by Essar alone in BPL Mobile, with no involvement by Hutch. Besides, Essar decided to go solo when it acquired licenses in seven new circles recently. The licences were acquired under a new entity, Essar SpaceTel. Hutch is not present in the seven circles that Essar applied for, including Jammu & Kashmir, Assam, the North East, Himachal Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh.

ICICI Bank acquired Russian Bank
19th May 2005: ICICI Bank, the second-largest commercial bank, has acquired Russia's Investitsionno-Kreditny Bank (IKB), the bank said in a statement on Thursday. It did not disclose the value of the deal or other details, but said the Russian bank had total assets of about $4.4 million as on March 31, 2005.

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