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Suitors regroup around Spice

business Updated: Oct 08, 2007 21:26 IST
Arun Kumar
Arun Kumar
Hindustan Times
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Apprehending that spectrum allotment will not be easy after last month’s mad scramble for new telecom licences, three operators — Telekom Malaysia, Maxis through Aircel, and Idea Cellular — are planning to take control of Spice Communications, the smallest Indian telecom company.

Telekom Malaysia, which has just concluded a restructuring at home, has upped its ante for Spice Communications, in which it holds a 39.2 per cent stake. The BK Modi family owns another 40.80 per cent.

Telekom Malaysia is in the cellular business in 10 Asian countries, including India and Indonesia, totting up a customer base of 31.8 million, up 33.1 per cent in the first half of 2007. Senior executives of the Malaysian firm were here last month to look at consolidating its operations in India, the fastest growing telecom market in the world.

Dilip Modi, chairman and managing director of Spice Communications, said his company had applied for fresh licences to provide services in select telecom circles. “We are not looking at divesting this business at this point of time,” he added.

Aircel, which provides services in nine telecom circles and has licences to operate nationwide but is waiting for extra radio frequency, is understood to have joined the race for Spice Communications. And Idea Cellular, which was in detailed negotiations with Spice Communications just before their public issues earlier this year, has rekindled its interest. Sources close to the developments said talks with all three were exploratory and a valuation would emerge only after the government farmed out more spectrum.

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