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Etisalat May Pick Up 51% In Swan Tele; Mad September, Crazy Auction?

Etisalat, the largest telco in the UAE, is close to picking up a majority stake – 51 percent – in Swan Telecom. Swan was reported to be a Reliance Communications (RCom) company, but according to the Hindu, RCom’s 9.9 percent stake is now held by Mauritius-based Delphi Investments. The rest is with “Tiger Trustees Pvt. Ltd”, of which 99.8 percent is held by Dynamix Balwas Ltd, and 0.2 percent is held by Parrot Consultants Pvt. Ltd and Zebra Consultants Pvt. Ltd. Looks like a complex web of investment vehicles to me. Etisalat already has a presence in India, via its data services subsidiary Technologia, which operates out of Bangalore.

It’s been a mad September so far, given the newsflow about telecom deals. As the auction of 3G spectrum is expected to be held sometime before the end of the year, it appears that telcos are looking to wrap up deals and prepare for that big fight. Deals reported so far include

Tata Tele May Sell Minority Stake To DoCoMo For $933 Million; France Tele Denies Reports
Telenor Looking To Pick Up 26 Percent Stake In Unitech Wireless For $500 M
BPL Sold 17% Stake For $80 Million To Fund Loop Stake, Mumbai Expansion
Shyam Telelink Gets Pan-India Spectrum; Sistema Plans To Increase Stake To 74 Percent

So expect more activity in September and early October as some of these rumoured deals are finalized, and approval from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) is sought. Do remember that these aren’t final yet – Zain Telecom, TurkCell and America Movil are also scouting for opportunities in India

By November-December, we should be ready for the biggest spectrum auction yet. What I’m wondering is – given all the hype around the auction, is 3G worth it? I’d asked this question two years ago, when the stakes were lower, and I think we’ll know for sure two years from now. What do you think – is 3G worth it?

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