AsiaWatch: What Price India's Mobile Market?

Price tags appear to be the order of the week in India, with news of a planned IPO and a couple of mobile operator valuation exercises. (See Reliance Ignites Infratel IPO.)

Also in the news: number portability in India; a name change for Unitech; an update of the $23 billion merger that's keeping the financial community on tenterhooks; and the iPhone in Korea.

  • Sistema Shyam TeleServices Ltd. , the Indian mobile operator, majority owned by Russian firm Sistema JSFC (London: SSA), has been valued at $3.5 billion, according to this Reuters report. Sistema Shyam had 1.73 million customers at the end of August.

  • Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) looks set to increase its stake in Indian mobile operator Vodafone India by about 6.1 percent at a cost of 8.62 billion Indian rupees (US$180 million), according to this Economic Times report.

    Vodafone, which currently holds a 51.6 percent direct stake in Essar, is set to buy stock from two investors with which it has option arrangements. The terms of the deal don't appear to reflect Essar's true market value, as the transaction, on the open market, would value the whole of Essar at about $3 billion. Essar boasted nearly 81 million customers at the end of August, and generated revenues of £755 million ($1.22 billion) in the three months to the end of June 2009.

  • The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has finalized the dates and terms for mobile number portability. In the metro and 'A' circles, number portability comes into effect from Dec. 31, 2009, and by March 20, 2010, in the rest of the country. Now MNP Interconnection Telecom Solutions India Pvt, which in March won contracts with the Department of Telecommunications to implement the services, has to deliver. (See IndiaWatch: Hold-Ups & Hangovers and AsiaWatch: India Preps Number Portability.)

  • Unitech Wireless has a new name: Uninor. The rather clunky moniker comes from a combination of Unitech and Telenor Group (Nasdaq: TELN), the Norwegian carrier that holds a controlling stake in the Indian mobile newcomer. (See Uninor Is Born and Telenor Invests in Unitech.)

  • Uncertainty continues to surround the proposed tie-up between Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL) and South Africa's MTN Group Ltd. , according to this Economic Times article. The current deadline for exclusive discussions between the two carriers is September 30. (See Bharti, MTN in $23 Billion Talks.)

  • The iPhone is set to enter the Korean market, reports Information Week. Cue much excitement as local device manufacturers LG Electronics Inc. (London: LGLD; Korea: 6657.KS) and Samsung Corp. prepare to do battle with Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) on their home turf. Remember, though, that not everyone believes the iPhone is good for the bottom lines of the mobile operators selling the device. (See ChinaWatch: iPhone Imminent?)

    — Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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