Asian carriers to buy Cingular’s Indian stake

Singapore Technologies Telemedia Pte. Ltd. (STT) and Telekom Malaysia Bhd. (TM International) will buy a 47.7 per cent stake in Indian mobile carrier Idea Cellular Ltd. for US$390 million, the companies announced Friday.

The transaction, which will help STT and TM International become players in India’s growing mobile phone market, should be completed in the first quarter of 2005, the companies said. STT will take 60 per cent of the stake and TM International will take 40 per cent, they said.

Most of the stake is being acquired from U.S.-based Cingular Wireless LLC, which said on Saturday that it is selling its 32.9 per cent share of Idea Cellular to the two companies for about US$200 million. The stake was originally acquired by AT&T Wireless Services Inc., which recently merged with Cingular. Cingular is a joint venture between SBC Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp.

Idea Cellular’s other major shareholders are Tata Industries Ltd. and the Aditya Birla Management Corp. Ltd., both based in India. Their stakes will remain unchanged, with Aditya Birla holding 26.3 per cent and Tata owning 24.7 per cent, the companies said.

Idea Cellular is based in Pune, in Maharashtra state.