The Hinduja Group, promoted by NRI businessmen, will start studying the books of Indian mobile firm Hutch-Essar on Monday, trying to keep pace with other suitors who have either completed or are about to complete due diligence.
Hinduja TMT executive chairman Ashok Hinduja said, "Our due diligence would start on February 5."
While Hutch-Essar's Indian partner Essar is through with confirmatory diligence of the company, Reliance Communications is in the process and British telecom giant Vodafone just weeks away from announcing a formal bid.
However, sources associated with the process said a decision on the sale of Hong Kong-based HTIL's 67 per cent stake in Hutch-Essar is unlikely before March.
By all signs and indications, it is going to be March, said a source with one of the potential bidders.
Though keen on acquiring the mobile venture, the suitors are unlikely to fuel a bidding war. Vodafone CEO Arun Sarin had said during his visit to India last month that the company not pay "over the top" in the multi-billion-pound battle.
Sarin had told analysts on January 31 that final bids in the auction to win control of India's fourth biggest mobile operator were still "weeks away" and that the probability of Vodafone's success remained "very hard to call".
"(This asset is) very strategically aligned with what we have been saying to shareholders. Equally, we are going to be financially disciplined. We will participate fully, but we are not going to go over the top," Sarin had told reporters.
The bidding for Hutch-Essar, ultimately controlled by Hong Kong-based ports-to-telecoms conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa kicked off in late December with valuations of around $13-15 billion but has shot up to as much as $20 billion.
Reliance Communications chairman Anil Ambani had also expressed the view that his company would take a conservative stand on the Hutch-Essar deal.
"We have been monitoring the developments (Hutch-Essar) over the last few weeks. At present, the due diligence is going on. We will take a conservative stand keeping in mind the sustainable value and profit creation. Barring unforeseen circumstances, the Hutch-Essar deal should be decided in a few weeks," Anil Ambani had told analysts.