Tata Unit Cuts Losses

Tata Teleservices Ltd. 's subsidiary in the Indian state of Maharashtra reported a sharp fall in its fiscal third-quarter net loss as its subscriber base approached 5 million. (See Tata Cuts Q3 Loss.)

Tata Teleservices Maharashtra Ltd. (TTML) cut its net loss in half, compared to the third quarter last year, from 591.7 million rupees (US$14.96 million) to INR274.3 million ($6.93 million). Revenues grew 25.2 percent from INR3.67 billion ($92.72 million) to INR4.6 billion ($116.15 million) over the same period.

Operating profit, or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA), improved from INR830.9 million ($21 million) to INR1.28 billion ($32.36 million).

TTML, previously known as Hughes Tele.com (India) Ltd., was acquired by Tata Teleservices in December 2002 and is traded on the National and Bombay Stock Exchanges. It operates in the Mumbai and Maharashtra (including Goa) telecom regions, known as "circles." Mumbai is the capital of the state of Maharashtra but is counted as a separate market by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) .

The operator provides mobile, fixed wireless, and wireline services. Its subscriber base crossed 4.7 million during the third quarter.

Tata Teleservices (TTSL) provides coverage in a total of 20 of India's 23 telecom circles and serves more than 20 million subscribers under the Tata Indicom brand. The company also announced today that its subscriber base in the National Capital Region (NCR), which includes New Delhi, has crossed the 3 million subscriber mark. (See Tata Indicom Reaches 3M.)

Tata Teleservices offers CDMA-based mobile services and has recently been granted approval for GSM licenses that will allow it to run networks using both technologies once it's granted spectrum. (See Indian Gov't Grants Mobile Licenses.)

In the meantime, the carrier has become part of the trend for mobile operators to create separate units to share their wireless tower infrastructures with other service providers, then selling off stakes in those businesses. Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL) recently sold a $1 billion stake in its Bharti Infratel subsidiary. (See Indian Operators in Sharing Mood.)

According to the Economic Times, Tata Teleservices has shortlisted five companies to acquire a stake of as much as 49 percent in its wireless tower unit: American Tower Corp. (NYSE: AMT), The Carlyle Group LLC , Quipo Telecom Infrastructure Ltd. , India's Essar Group, and Excel Towers. Citigroup and Lehman Brothers have been named as advisers on the deal.

— Nicole Willing, Reporter, Light Reading

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