Mumbai: Ahead of discussions with Vodafone, Indian conglomerate Essar on 19 February said it wanted ‘partnership of equals´and ‘joint management´in the country’s fourth largest mobile venture Hutch-Essar, where the UK giant is taking majority stake.
Debunking reports that it could exit the business, provided Vodafone paid a premium for its 33% stake in Hutch-Essar Ltd (HEL), Essar Teleholdings CEO Vikash Saraf said: “We are the founder partner and shareholder. We will continue as a strategic partner in HEL and not as an investment partner.
“So, where is the question of seeking a premium?” he wondered and said: “The fundamental tenet of the partnership with Vodafone will be a partnership of equals where both sides have a meaningful role. This will be the basis for any agreement with Vodafone.”
Discussions between Essar promoters Ruias and Vodafone are expected to start later this week for which group’s Vice Chairman Ravi Ruia is slated to fly to London.
After clinching the deal to acquire 67% stake in HEL for $11.1 billion, Vodafone CEO Arun Sarin had visited India last week and held discussions with the Ruias.
Winding up his 3-day visit, India-born Sarin had exuded confidence an agreement with Essar would be signed soon.
Asked about Vodafone’s response to the Ruias, Saraf said: “We have communicated our views. Discussions are at a preliminary stage. They (Vodafone) have also expressed almost similar views, saying that Essar can add lot of value.
“This is an early stage. But we want the shareholder agreement to address all aspects including when the partners are working together to add value and in the eventuality, if any, of either of the partner quitting.”