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Etisalat May Agree to Buy $3 Billion Reliance Stake Next Month


Emirates Telecommunications Corp may buy 26 percent of Reliance Communications Ltd., a stake estimated to be worth $3 billion, as early as mid-August, the Financial Times reported, citing people familiar with the talks. Both sides are considering merging the Indian unit of Etisalat, as the Abu Dhabi-based phone carrier is known, with Reliance because of domestic rules that bar companies from owning more than 10 percent of two telecommunications companies, the newspaper said. Reliance and Etisalat declined to comment on any specific negotiations, according to the report. A merger wouldn’t be simple because takeover rules in India discourage such a combination, the newspaper cited HSBC Holdings Plc analyst Rajiv Sharma as saying. A purchase would help Etisalat expand its presence in India, the world’s second-largest mobile-phone market after China, as increased competition drives down the company’s earnings. A sale would follow Reliance’s agreement last month to sell its wireless-towers to GTL Infrastructure Ltd. and reduce debt. Etisalat Chairman Mohammed Omran said last month investing in Reliance is among several options the United Arab Emirates company is considering to expand in India. The phone operator said in January it plans to raise its stake in Etisalat DB, formerly called Swan Telecom, to one share above 50 percent from 45 percent.


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