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Vodafone plans $1.65 bln investment to fully own India unit

Vodafone raises its stake in Vodafone India to 100 percent; Claims regarding the acquisition of its partner's stake in Egypt remain unconfirmed

AFP and Ahram Online , Tuesday 29 Oct 2013
The headquarters of Vodafone Germany are pictured in Duesseldorf September 12, 2013. Credit: Reuters/Ina Fassbender
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British mobile phone giant Vodafone said Tuesday it was seeking regulatory approval to take full control of its Indian unit for $1.65 billion, after New Delhi relaxed foreign ownership rules in the sector.
Vodafone, the second biggest carrier in India, said it has filed an application with India's foreign investment panel to raise its stake in its local unit from 64.38 percent.
Vodafone said increasing its stake to 100 percent would cost 101.41 billion rupees ($1.65 billion), as it seeks to increase its share of the world's second-largest cellular market in terms of subscribers after China.
"We have always said we would like to increase our holding in the business and this further investment demonstrates Vodafone's long-term commitment to India," the company said in a statement.
Vodafone, which is embroiled in a $2 billion tax row with the Indian government, also said it may consider providing "additional funding" by subscribing to shares of the subsidiary, without giving more details.
The government in July relaxed rules on foreign holdings in the telecoms sector to allow companies such as Vodafone to own 100 percent of their local businesses, up from 74 percent.
The move to attract much-needed foreign investment comes as the embattled Congress-led government struggles to kickstart sluggish economic growth, which hit a decade-low last year.
Indian businessmen Ajay Piramal of Piramal Enterprises and Analjit Singh of Max India are currently the other shareholders of Vodafone India.
Revenues of Vodafone India, which has about 155 million subscribers, grew 13.7 percent to 93.62 billion rupees in the quarter ended June.
Bloomberg reported earlier this month that Vodafone plc had expressed interest in buying its partner's stake in Egypt, which the company has not yet officially denied or confirmed.
An official in Egypt - who spoke on condition of anonymity - told Ahram Online last week that no official talks are underway regarding the claimed acquisition.
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