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Hutchison India portfolio heads for listing

Hutchison Whampoa plans to consolidate its cellular telephone assets in India with the intention of listing them within a year to 18 months.

Hutchison Whampoa plans to consolidate its cellular telephone assets in India with the intention of listing them within a year to 18 months, according to group managing director Canning Fok Kin-ning.

CHINA (SCMP.com) - Hutchison sold its second-generation holdings - Orange and VoiceStream Wireless - as part of plans to upgrade its portfolio to third-generation mobile operations.

Fok said India would be the next area of focus. "The next jewel in our group will be the India business," he said. "We will consolidate [possibly by merging or acquiring assets] this portfolio before listing in the next 12 to 18 months."

Speaking to reporters at the ITU Telecom Asia 2000 conference, Fok said the company's Indian cellular business had positive cash flow this year, despite the group investing less than US$500 million since 1995.

He also said Hutchison had a 25 percent share of the entire Indian telecoms market, with operations in Bombay, Delhi and Calcutta.

The company has a 49 percent stake in both Hutchison Max and Esser-Sterling in India, and is awaiting approval to take a 49 percent of Usha Martin Telekom.

A shift in the geographical focus of Hutchison's telecoms strategy has been evident since it said it would give up its pursuit of any more third-generation mobile licences in Europe.

"Unless a very attractive opportunity arises, we will concentrate on what we have now," Fok said.

Hutchison this year won 3G licences in Britain, Italy and Austria at a cost of about 11 billion euro (US$9.95 billion).

Fok said it stopped pursuing third-generation licences in smaller European telecoms markets after its high-profile withdrawal from bidding for a German 3G licence.

The company, however, is still in contention for a Swiss 3G licence which will be awarded by the end of the year after a beauty contest.

Fok also said the company was unlikely to take part in the beauty contest for a French licence and was "no longer enthusiastic about finding a local partner".

It was also unlikely to be taking part in the bidding for a 3G licence in Singapore.

He said that while the company was looking at other Asian telecoms businesses, it had not yet mapped out a telecoms strategy for the region.