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Vodafone, Ruias split on partnership

London/Mumbai, February 12
After clinching the Hutch- Essar deal, Vodafone is going all out to persuade Essar to sell its stake in the venture, contrary to the Ruia-promoted Groupís claim that it was offered partnership by the UK giant.

While announcing it would acquire Hong Kong-based Hutchison Telecomís stake in the Indian mobile firm, Vodafone also offered to buy out Essar from the venture at the same price as that for shares of HTIL.

Even before Vodafone made the announcement, Ruias, who hold 33 per cent stake in the venture, welcomed the deal saying the British company had proposed to partner them in the new look venture.

Incidentally, group Vice Chairman Ravi Ruia and managing director Prashant Ruia were in London, where Vodafone is based, when the UK telecom giant was on Sunday fine tuning an agreement that marks the biggest ever merger and acquisition deal involving Indian entities.

Essar Group said that it was evaluating all its options in the best interest of the group. If Essar decides to exit it could cash out over six billion dollars based on an enterprise value of 18.8 billion dollars offered by Vodafone.

Only last month, Vodafone CEO Arun Sarin had termed Essar as a ďnatural partnerĒ by virtue of its stake in Hutch-Essar. However, the UK giant has now clearly stated that it wants to buy out Essarís stake, while adding that HTILís existing partners, who between them hold a 15 per cent stake in HEL, have agreed to retain their holding and become partners.

According to the statement, Vodafone aims to gain full operational control over Hutch-Essar with a 52 per cent stake following completion of the deal, while its local minority partners would increase their combined stake to 26 per cent if Essar decides to accept the British firmís offer. ó PTI

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