Vodafone examines Hutch Essar books

Vodafone Group, the world's largest mobile phone company, has begun examining legal issues relating to a possible bid for Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa's controlling stake in a leading Indian mobile phone company, news reports, quoted by an Associated Press report said.

The Associated Press report said a successful acquisition of the 67% stake held by Hutchison Telecommunication International and its associates in India's Hutchison Essar would help Vodafone gain a strong presence in one of the world's fastest growing mobile phone markets.

But Vodafone faces a tough bidding war and several legal and regulatory complications involving Hutchison Essar, a joint venture company in which the remaining 33% is held by an Indian business conglomerate, the Essar Group, that some legal experts say has the first right to buy Hutchison's stake, the report said.

Reliance Communications, India's second-largest mobile phone company, Malaysia's Maxis and Egypt's Orascom are also in the race for what could be the biggest ever acquisition deal in India.
Vodafone emerged a front runner last week after making an approach that reportedly valued Hutchison Essar at between $17 billion and $18 billion, the report added.

About 15 senior officials from Vodafone are in India to start a due diligence process, said reports in the Economic Times and Business Standard newspapers.

The company has hired accounting firm Ernst & Young and New Delhi-based law firm Trilegal to assist in the process, the reports said, without naming any source.
Vodafone's London office declined to comment on the report.