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Sun 18 Jan 2009 07:37 PM

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Batelco consortium to take $225m stake in Indian mobile operator

Batelco to purchase 49% of S Tel to grow operations into India

A Batelco led consortium has agreed to purchase a 49% shareholding in S Tel Limited (S Tel), a recently established Indian mobile operation, for $225m.

Batelco has partnered with Millennium Private Equity (MPE), a Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) regulated entity to form Batelco Millennium India Company Limited (BMICL) to purchase the shares in S Tel.

S Tel has licenses to operate in six Indian states - Bihar, Orissa, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, North East and Assam. Finalization of the purchase is subject to preconditions but full completion is expected by end of Q1 2009.

S Tel was established to gain entry into the rapidly growing mobile markets of North East and North West India. The population in these areas is approximately 230 million and mobile penetration rate is less than 20%. S Tel will focus on delivering innovation and value, and aspires to grow rapidly to respond to the needs of these largely untapped areas.

Batelco Chief Executive Peter Kaliaropoulos stated that the acquisition of the S Tel shares in partnership with MPE will provide significant growth opportunities for Batelco in the expanding Indian market, the third largest and fastest growing mobile market in the world, where mobile penetration is currently growing at nine to ten million subscribers a month.

“The successful completion of this deal supports our growth and expansion strategy in wireless and broadband markets and boosts Batelco’s long term plans to diversify our geographical footprint and dramatically increase our scale,” he said.

“We explored a number of investment opportunities in India and S Tel was judged to be the most suitable investment for Batelco’s entry into the Indian telecommunications market. Our priority now is to assist S Tel to rapidly roll-out network infrastructure and offer mobile services to customers,” added Kaliaropoulos.

S Tel Director Santosh Robert stated that he welcomed Batelco, an experienced operator in the mobile telephony market, to take part in development and growth opportunities in one of the fastest growing telecom markets in the world.

“S Tel will benefit operationally by leveraging synergies with Batelco which through BMICL will be a significant shareholder in our company and together we would like to take a major part in shaping the future Indian telecommunication landscape,” he said.

MPE Telecoms, Media and Technology Fund Manager Izzet Guney stated he was extremely delighted to be joining a prominent operator such as Batelco in this investment and supporting S Tel's vision for the mobile sector in India.

Batelco chairman Shaikh Hamad bin Abdulla Al-Khalifa said that Batelco plans to continue to acquire other operators and licences.

He said: “Our Bahrain operation is and will always be the heart of Batelco Group. However, we also have to tap into growing markets larger than Bahrain either directly or with partners in order to retain our strength and prominence at home and in the Middle East Africa region.”

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