Vodafone takes full control of Indian mobile group

NEW DELHI, July 2, 2011 (AFP) – British mobile phone giant Vodafone is taking full control of its Indian joint venture by buying out its local partner Essar Group, a statement said Saturday, ending a troubled relationship. Vodafone, which has sought to make India a crown jewel in its expanding emerging markets portfolio, said it will pay Essar Group companies $5.46 billion for the one-third holding in Indian mobile-phone services provider Vodafone-Essar.

“The settlement marks the end of a four-year partnership between Vodafone and Essar in India, during which Vodafone Essar has grown to reach almost 140 million subscribers,” the British firm said in the statement.

Vodafone had announced plans for the buyout in March after friction between Vodafone and the Essar Group, founded by billionaires Shashi and Ravi Ruia, became more public over the valuation of Essar’s minority stake.

The deal caps a process which began when Vodafone bought a 67 percent stake in Hutchison Essar Ltd from Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa for $11.1 billion in 2007, marking its first foray into India.

The company, which was renamed Vodafone Essar, now is the third-largest mobile operator in India’s fiercely competitive market.