British telecom operator Vodafone is all set to start due diligence for Hutchison- Essar, which has denied Reliance Communications access to its books, UK's Financial Times reported.
Vodafone has appointed Ernst and Young to help it study Hutchison Essar's books, FT said, adding that 15 executives of the UK firm have been flown to Mumbai for the purpose.
The report, quoting unnamed sources close to the negotiations, said that access had been denied to Reliance Communications (RCOM) giving Vodafone "de facto exclusivity to pursue the deal." While a Vodafone spokesperson was not available for comment, an RCOM spokesperson declined to comment on the denial of access to Hutch-Essar's books.
An HTIL spokesperson said from Hong Kong that "we do not comment on the state of negotiations." If Vodafone succeeds in clinching the deal, Hutchison Telecom, which owns 67 per cent stake in Hutch-Essar, would be able to complete the transaction without taking the consent of its Indian partner.
An HTIL spokesperson had earlier said that Essar need be given Right of First Refusal only in the "limited case of a sale to certain Indian telecom companies. There is no RoFR over any other buyer." Sources said under the agreement pertaining to RoFR, Essar can invoke its right only when HTIL's direct or indirect holding in Hutch-Essar dips below 40 per cent on account of sale to three Indian companies — Reliance Group, Tata Group and Bharti Airtel.