Sarin says Vodafone to make a bid for Hutch "

Vodafone CEO Arum Sarin said that his company will soon make a firm bid for Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa's controlling stake in a leading Indian mobile phone company, an Associated Press report said.

The Associated Press report said Sarin, who is in New Delhi to meet with government officials to discuss the matter, was also open to a partnership with Hutchison's Indian partner, the Essar Group that holds a 33% stake in Hutchison Essar.

Hutchison Whampoa's holding company and its associates hold the remaining 67% stake.

Sarin was quoted as saying that Vodafone hopes to make a formal bid in early February.

Sarin declined to comment on any offer price or details of how the company planned to raise money for the proposed acquisition, the report said.

Vodafone emerged a front runner last week after making an approach that reportedly valued all of Hutchison Essar at between $17 billion and $18 billion, which would make it the biggest-ever corporate takeover in Indian history, the report said.

An Indian official, who attended Sarin's meeting with Nath, told The Associated Press that the talks focused on regulations that apply to foreign investment in telecommunications.

There was no discussion on valuation of Hutchison Essar and commercial details of the deal, said the official.