Vodafone moves FIPB to hike stake in India venture to 100%

Updated: Oct 30 2013, 08:37am hrs
Vodafone Plc has sought Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) approval to increase its stake in its India venture Vodafone India to 100%, reports fe Bureau in New Delhi. Vodafone Plc, which currently has a direct stake of 64.4% in the venture, will buy out the balance for R10,141 crore ($1.65 billion), a company spokesperson confirmed to FE.

The move follows the governments decision earlier this year that allowed foreign telecom companies to hold a 100% stake in their Indian ventures, up from the 74% permitted earlier. Vodafone is the first telecom company to move the government for a 100% stake since the Union Cabinet approved the law allowing the same in August.

With Vodafone taking the plunge, all eyes will now be on Telenor of Norway, Sistema of Russia and Maxis of Malaysia, global telecom majors that operate Uninor, MTS and Aircel, respectively, in India. Sources said Vodafone would get the requisite approval at the earliest from the government and the transaction is likely to be completed by March 2014.

Vodafone confirms it has filed an application with the FIPB to increase its holding in Vodafone India from 64.38% to 100%. We have always said we would like to increase our holding...and this further investment demonstrates Vodafones long-term commitment to India, a spokesman said.

The total inflow of foreign investment into India as a result of the proposed transactions will be approximately Rs 10,141 crore. Following the completion of these transactions, Vodafone will also consider providing additional funding to VIL by subscribing to equity shares of VIL. Looking ahead, Vodafone will continue to invest in India to bring the benefits of mobile communications and financial inclusion to more and more people across the country, a company spokesperson said.

Apart from the 64.4% which Vodafone holds directly in the Indian venture, another 20.1% is held by it indirectly through companies in which its stake is less than 50%. Industrialist Ajay Piramal holds 11% while Max India Group promoter, Analjit Singh, currently chairman of Vodafone India, has a 4.5% stake in the venture.

Of the roughly Rs 10,000 crore that Vodafone will spend to hike its stake, Rs 8,300 crore will go to Piramal. This is because Vodafone had an agreement with Piramal to buy out his 11% stake for Rs 8,300 crore if the company failed to come up with an initial public offering by February, 2014.

Piramal had entered the company as a shareholder in August, 2011 when the Essar Group, which had 33% stake in the company had exited the venture. In 2011, Ajay Piramals flagship firm Piramal Healthcare had acquired 5.5% stake for $640 million (Rs 2,856 crore). In February 2012, he bought 5.more 5% for $618 million (Rs 3,007 crore).

Vodafone entered India in 2007 by buying out Hong Kong-based Hutchison in Hutchison Essar for $11 billion.