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Asian wireless groups seek deals

21 ноября 2008

Two of the world’s largest wireless operators, China Mobile and Bharti Airtel, are hunting for global acquisitions, underlining a shift in momentum in the sector from developed operators to cash-rich companies from emerging markets.

China Mobile is the largest operator in China, the world’s biggest market with more than 616m subscribers, while Bharti is the leader in India, the world’s fastest-growing telecom industry with 10m new subscribers each month on top of the existing 315m.

The pair are still expanding rapidly in their home markets but are keen to diversify to prepare for growing competition and to build a broader platform for growth once their domestic industries begin to slow in the coming years.

“We are continuously scanning the world. Everyone is not a seller. We are looking for desperate sellers,” Manoj Kohli, Bharti’s chief executive, said to the Financial Times.

Companies from developing economies are seeking to take advantage of the global financial crisis to use their strong cash positions, low debt and the relative absence of aggressive rival western bidders to snap up cheap foreign assets. China Life, the world’s largest life insurer, said this week it was looking for international M&A opportunities.

China Mobile, the world’s largest phone company by market value, last year made its first foreign acquisition by purchasing Pakistan’s Paktel for $460m.

Bharti, controlled by Indian billionaire Sunil Bharti Mittal, was earlier this year in talks to buy MTN, the South Africa-based telecoms group. The deal would have been the largest ever for an emerging market company, with an estimated value at one stage of $50bn.

Wang Jianzhou, chairman of China Mobile, said the group, which used to focus on buying majority stakes with management control, was now willing to become a minority shareholder in other telecoms groups, especially in Asia and other emerging markets.

Bharti, which eventually pulled out of the MTN talks after the South African company balked at selling it a majority stake, is interested in assets in Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, Africa and, perhaps, Latin America.

Mr Kohli said the group hoped to acquire companies with good track records and sound managements in “a growing market with a clear regulatory framework”.

He said the company would continue to grow organically in India and in neighbouring countries. India’s mobile industry was set to consolidate in three years, forcing at least half of the industry’s 12 operators to sell or go out of business, Mr Kohli said.

Источник: Financial Times

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