MTS India Aims for 2011 IPO

Sistema Shyam TeleServices Ltd. (SSTL), which operates under the brand MTS India, is shaping up for an IPO in 2011, according to a senior executive at the mobile operator. (See MTS India Puts Its Faith in Data.)

"We haven't decided a time line for this, but we'll be coming out with an IPO in 2011," says Rajeev Batra, chief information officer at MTS India, though he is unable to provide any further details.

That the operator is looking to list its stock on the public markets isn't wholly unexpected, as the company -- currently majority owned (73.7 percent) by Russia's Sistema JSFC (London: SSA), with India's Shyam Group (23.8 percent) and a number of smaller investors (2.5 percent) holding the balance -- had previously hinted at a potential listing during 2010.

But MTS India delayed as telecom stocks had a bumpy ride on the Indian exchanges this year while operator margins were squeezed, billions were spent on new spectrum, and several security issues injected uncertainty into the country's communications services.

Instead, the company, which has activated more than 7.5 million connections in the 13 circles (service areas) in which it is currently operational, adopted an alternative funding strategy. In August this year it secured a 13 billion Indian rupees (US$286 million) loan from the State Bank of India to finance the company’s expansion plans and introduce new products and data services on its CDMA network. (MTS India didn't participate in the 3G spectrum auction.) (See Data Is India's Next Tariff Battlefield and MTS India Signs Up for Advanced CDMA.)

That, though, clearly hasn't put the company's IPO plans on ice, as MTS India's management appears bullish about joining the public markets in the next calendar year.

— Gagandeep Kaur, India Editor, Light Reading

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