'Airtel eyeing Qualcomm India unit stake'

Written by Agencies | Mumbai/New Delhi | Updated: May 16 2012, 22:06pm hrs
Top Indian mobile phone carrier the Sunil Mittal-led Bharti Airtel is in advanced talks to buyout the Indian partners of Qualcomm Inc in a fourth-generation (4G) broadband venture in the country, two sources with direct knowledge said on Wednesday.

Qualcomm, which spent nearly $1 billion to buy 4G radio airwaves in a 2010 Indian state auction, had sold a total 26 percent stake to Indian companies Global Holding Corp and Tulip Telecom for about $58 million to comply with the sector's foreign holding rules.

The companies are still negotiating valuations, but Bharti will likely pay some premium over what Global Holding and Tulip paid in 2010, one of the two sources said, adding that Qualcomm was not planning to reduce its stake immediately.

What is planned is that Bharti will make further investments in the company in future and new shares will be issued to them. That automatically dilutes Qualcomm holding, the source said.

Both the sources declined to be named as the talks are not public yet.

Bharti and Global Holding declined to comment, while Qualcomm and Tulip were not immediately available.

The sources said details were still being worked out and that there is no clarity yet on when an agreement would be reached. Qualcomm wants to close the deal as early as possible as it prepares for rollout of services, they said.

($1 = 53.8 Indian rupees)