Vodafone to invest $2b in India in the next few years

(Associated Press via Newsedge) Vodafone Group will invest $2 billion in India in the next few years, the Britain-based company's chief executive said.

'We are committed to enhancing investments in India and in the next couple of years, we will invest $2 billion (towards capital expenditure),' Arun Sarin told reporters in New Delhi.

'I think there will be consolidation in the India market in the near term,' Sarin added.

Vodafone is in the process of acquiring Indian mobile phone operator Hutchison Essar and the deal should be completed in about two months, he said.

Buying into a rapidly growing market, Vodafone paid $11.1 billion to buy the 67% stake held by Hutchison Telecom International.

The company also said it would make an offer to buy Essar Group's 33% stake in Hutchison Essar 'at the equivalent price per share' it agreed to with Hutchison Telecom, a holding company of Hong Kong based Hutchison Whampoa.

With European markets fully saturated with mobile telephones, Vodafone sees India as a key area for potential growth. Recently mobile telephone companies there have been adding 6.5 million users per month.

Hutchison Essar is India's fourth-largest operator with about 23.3 million customers and 16.4% of the market.

'India will be the biggest country for Vodafone in terms of number of subscribers,' he said, adding the company will reach a subscriber base of 100 million in the country in the next few years.

Sarin didn't specify when he would hit the 100 million target, but said he will achieve faster subscriber growth and a higher subscriber base as a result of roll out in newer circles, or service areas.

© 2007 The Associated Press

© 2007 Dialog, a Thomson business. All rights reserved

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