Vodafone has signaled its is willing offload its stake in mobile operator Bharti Airtel, estimated to be worth as much as $2 billion (€1.36 b).
In an interview with India's Economic Times, Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao said the company was open to offers for its 4.39% investment in Bharti Airtel parent Bharti Telecom.
“No company will be happy with a small minority stake in another entity. If anybody is interested in buying our stake, we are for it,” he said.
Based on Airtel's current share price, the sale would be worth around 55 billion rupees ($1.18 billion). But using the most recent Airtel stake sale as a yardstick, Vodafone could accrue closer to 87 billion rupees.
Vodafone bought a 10% stake in the Indian carrier in 2005 for $1.5 billion. It sold 5.6% back to Bharti in 2007, shortly after it bought Hutchison’s controlling interest in rival Essar.
Vodafone is considering a public listing for Vodafone Essar, Colao said. Vodafone Essar is the third largest mobile operator in India.
Colao added that competition in India's mobile market was becoming unsustainable, with around 13 operators currently offering services. He said the market needed to consolidate to around five or six players.