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AT&T may buy Maxis' 74 pct in India's Aircel

Top U.S. phone company AT&T Inc is close to buying Malaysia's Maxis Communications' 74 percent stake in Indian mobile operator Aircel, the Economic Times said on Monday, citing unnamed sources.

AT&T, which is seeking to re-enter the world's fastest-growing cellular market, has valued Aircel at $5-$6 billion, the newspaper said.

“At the upper end, the ticket price includes a control premium of around 30 percent, which AT&T is expected to pay for taking management control,” it said.

The paper said Maxis CEO Sandip Das declined comment.

Maxis, Malaysia's top mobile services firm, holds 74 percent in Aircel, the maximum permissible by Indian law, with the remainder held by India's Apollo Hospitals Enterprises .

In May, Maxis had committed to spend $4-$5 billion in India by 2009/10 to expand its network. It has in the past denied newspaper reports that it planned to exit its Aircel unit.

Aircel, which has 7,000 telecom towers, has nearly 11 million subscribers in India.

AT&T, which has applied for licences in India in partnership with the Mahindra Group, was reported last year to be eyeing a wireless acquisition in the fast-growing market. It said earlier this year it would invest $1 billion worldwide for expansion.

The pace of consolidation in India's mobile market, the world's largest after China, has quickened.

Last week, Malaysia's TM International said it would pick up around a fifth of India's Idea Cellular , which in turn had said it would buy 40.8 percent in smaller rival Spice Telecom.

Source: Reuters

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