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Vodafone officials meet DoT mandarins

india Updated: Jan 04, 2007 22:48 IST

Delhi's corridors of power buzzed with talk of European telecommunications giant Vodafone on Thursday as the British firm's special representatives came calling on Department of Telecommunications (DoT) officials to explore ways to overcome regulatory hurdles that may come up in its bid to take a majority in mobile service player Hutchison Essar.

A seasoned diplomat was at hand to speak for Vodafone, which is headed by Indian-born Arun Sarin.

Former British ambassador to Finland, Matthew Kirk, in his new avatar as director, external relations, Vodafone Group, is responsible for managing the public policy activities, and represents the company with governments and key political institutions around the world.

Kirk came calling with Neil Gough, director of International Institutions, Vodafone and met DS Mathur, DoT's secretary.

Sources in DoT said the meeting lasted for about 15-20 minutes. While, it could not be confirmed what was discussed at the meeting, a DoT official said, "In the meeting an assessment was attempted by the Vodafone officials about the government's position regarding the foreign direct investment (FDI) and the licence regulation."

Bobby Leach, group media relations director for Vodafone Plc, said in an e-mailed response to Hindustan Times that the company would not like to comment about the meeting. Mathur could not be reached.

Vodafone is bullish about acquiring Hutch Essar, in which Hong Kong-based Hutchison Telecom has 67 per cent stake and India's Essar the remaining 33 per cent.

Sarin is under pressure on the Hutch deal. On the one hand, it is a big opportunity for Vodafone to jump into a key emerging market. On the other hand, the company's board, shareholders and analysts are concerned over the valuation of the deal and regulatory issues that may crop up.

One view is that Vodafone must keep a partnership with the Ruias, who control Essar, in order to smoothen local regulatory issues.

Anil Ambani and his Reliance Communications are Vodafone's main rival, but NRI group Hindujas joined the fray on Thursday.

Email M Rajendran: Rajendran .manoharan@hindustantimes.com