Bharti in talks to buy BT stake in mobile firm

Bharti Enterprises is "in advanced stages of discussions" with British Telecom to buy out the latter's interest in Bharti Cellular. Bharti Cellular is based in New Delhi, and is the subcontinent's most profitable mobile operator.

SINGAPORE--Bharti Enterprises is "in advanced stages of discussions" with British Telecom to buy out the latter's interest in Bharti Cellular.

Bharti Cellular is based in New Delhi, and is the subcontinent's most profitable mobile operator. BT owns 44 percent of the company, but is seeking to sell off its Asian assets to ease the burden of its debt, which stood at US$42.75 billion in March 2000, incurred in part from paying US$14.6 billion for third generation (3G) licenses in Europe.

Bharti has already bought over two other BT ventures in April, Bloomberg reported. Bharti BT provides satellite-based communications, while Bharti BT Internet gives Internet services across the country.

Bharti spokesman Hemant Sachdev said that an announcement could be made as soon as today, but refused to comment on a report in Times of India, claiming Bharti would pay up to US$150 million for BT's stake.

If the deal goes through, the holding will be taken over by Bharti Televentures, which is planning to sell shares worth US$200 million.

Bharti and SingTel are involved in a S$1.2 billion venture to build a cable linking Singapore, Chennai and Mumbai.

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