MTNL leads bidding for Suntel

8 Jun 2007

Indian telco Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) has placed a bid estimated at between USD160 million and USD180 million for Sri Lankan fixed wireless operator Suntel, Indian paper The Economic Times reports, adding that the offer is believed to be the highest. Bids for the CDMA WiLL provider closed at the end of May. Suntel’s CEO Jeremy Huxtable said he was unable to comment on the outcome of the bids until a formal announcement is made. Four bidders were previously reported to be in the final stage of the bidding process: Malaysia Telekom, Sri Lankan blue chip conglomerate John Keells Holdings, MTNL and another Indian telco, VSNL. The Economic Times commented: ‘If the deal with Suntel materialises, it will provide a respite to MTNL, which has been under immense pressure to grow abroad as its business remains restricted to Delhi and Mumbai…MTNL lost the race for Saudi Arabia’s third mobile licence in March and fixed line licence in April. It was also out of the race for a licence in Kenya.’ Suntel’s parent, Sweden’s TeliaSonera, is selling out at a time when the island’s WiLL market is booming: according to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, by the end of 2006 there were three-quarters of a million fixed wireless subscribers – split between Suntel, Lanka Bell and wireline incumbent Sri Lanka Telecom – up from around 300,000 a year earlier; Suntel claimed around 300,000 WiLL lines in service at the end of March 2007.

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