Vodafone faces possible counter bid from Indian rival

Reliance Communications, India's second-largest mobile phone company, began lobbying the government for a chance to bid for rival Hutchison Essar, a day after Vodafone said it also wanted a controlling stake in the company, according to an Associated Press report.

The report said Reliance chairman Anil Ambani met Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and Communications Minister Dayanidhi Maran to discuss the matter, officials in the two ministries said.
The Associated Press report said officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the issue. Ambani refused to speak to journalists after the talks.

His meetings came after the board of Reliance Communications authorized him to raise funds and 'take all necessary steps' for a possible acquisition of Hutchison Essar, a joint venture between Hong Kong-Based Hutchison Whampoa and India's Essar Group, the report said.

Hutchison and its associates hold 67% in the company and want to exit.

Vodafone Group's CEO Arun Sarin earlier said the world's largest mobile phone company hopes to make a formal bid for Hutchison's controlling stake in the Indian company in early February, 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.