Rumour Mill: Vivendi in talks with Indian celco; Vodafone to sell Polish stake

Despite strong denials from the French company, it seems likely that the entertainment-to-telecoms conglomerate Vivendi is in negotiations with India's second largest mobile operator over acquiring a 26 per cent stake in Reliance Communications (RCom).

Meanwhile, Vodafone has been mentioned as being interested in selling its 24.39 per cent holding in the Polish mobile operator, Polkomtel.

RCom put itself 'in play' following the announcement that it would be willing to sell up to 26 per cent of the company to an outside investor. Since making this decision, the company, which is burdened by debt and the cost of rolling out 3G services, has attracted interest from AT&T and South Africa's MTN Group as well as Abu Dhabi's Etisalat.

According to insiders, Vivendi and RCom have been in discussions for one month and are at an advanced stage. If Vivendi--which is seen as the front-runner to acquire the 26 per cent holding--was to proceed it would have to make an open offer for another 20 per cent, according to guidelines from the Securities & Exchange Board of India. 

For Vodafone, the Polish shareholders in Polkomtel have reached an agreement to sell their 75.5 per cent holding, and are awaiting Vodafone's interest in adding its 24.39 per cent. "I'm not ruling out that Vodafone could join us, so 100 per cent of the shares could be on offer," said a major shareholder, Jacek Krawiec, CEO of oil refiner PKN Orlen.

Krawiec said the sale of Polkomtel could start this autumn and be completed in the first half of 2011. Industry watchers have valued the entire company at over US$4.8 billion.

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