Sarin to meet with Indian minister over Hutch bid

India's Commerce Minister Kamal Nath would meet with Vodafone Group 's chief executive Arun Sarin to discuss a possible bid to purchase a Hong Kong conglomerate's controlling stake in a leading Indian mobile phone company, an Associated Press report said.

The Associated Press report said Sarin asked for the meeting to discuss a bid for the 67% stake held by Hong Kong-based Hutchison Telecommunication International and its associates in India's Hutchison Essar, according to Nath.

Nath's comments come a day after Indian media reported that Vodafone officials were in India to start a due diligence process and has hired accounting firm Ernst & Young to scrutinize Hutchison Essar's books and New Delhi-based law firm Trilegal to assist in the process, the Associated Press report said.

Vodafone, the Essar Group, an Indian conglomerate that holds the other 33%,and Hutchison's Indian office had declined to comment on the reports, the report said.

Nath said that EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson had also called him to discuss regulations that would apply to a possible bid by Vodafone for Hutchison's stake.

The acquisition would help Vodafone gain a strong presence in one of the world's fastest growing mobile phone markets, but a bid could start a bidding war, the report said.

News reports have said Essar is interested acquiring its Hong Kong-based partner's stake in Hutchison Essar. Reliance Communications, India's second-largest mobile phone company, and the London-based Hinduja brothers also have voiced interest. Malaysia's Maxis Communications and Egypt's Orascom Telecommunications are also reported to be in the race.