State-owned Indian telco MTNL’s proposed acquisition of a stake in Sri Lankan wireless in the local loop (WiLL) operator Suntel is on hold while it continues to look for a joint venture partner, reports India’s Business Standard. ‘We are looking for a partner to pick up 50% in Suntel…All other issues have been settled,’ a senior MTNL official said, adding that MTNL wants to expand overseas due to shrinking domestic opportunities, and is focused on acquisitions rather than bidding for new licences. The official also said that MTNL does not want majority control of Suntel as it wants the Sri Lankan telco to remain an independent firm. MTNL is the preferred bidder for a stake in Suntel, although three other potential buyers were shortlisted in May 2007, namely India’s Tata Communications, Telekom Malaysia and Sri Lankan conglomerate John Keells Holdings. Suntel has an estimated half a million CDMA-based lines in service, and MTNL’s bid is thought to be in the range of USD100 million-USD120 million. Stockholm-based Overseas Telecom, an associated company of TeliaSonera, is currently Suntel’s largest shareholder with a 55% stake.
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