London: The Hinduja group is still interested in buying a controlling stake in Hutchison Essar Ltd., a top official told Reuters on 1 February 2007 denying a newspaper report s that it had stepped back.
“We are interested in Hutchison Essar and reports of us withdrawing are false,” said Ashok Hinduja, executive chairman at Hinduja TMT .
“We are beginning our due diligence of Hutch on February 5,” he said.
London’s Times newspaper reported on 1 February 2007 said the Hinduja group was no longer deemed serious bidders, citing unnamed sources.
It also said that Goldman Sachs, Hong Kong-based Hutchison group’s financial adviser, was looking to persuade Britain’s Vodafone to agree an upfront contract for a 67 per cent stake controlled by Hutchison Telecom International in Hutichson Essar.
India’s Reliance Communications Ltd s also in the race to buy its smaller rival Hutchison Essar, the country’s fourth-largest mobile services provider.
India’s Essar group, which owns the remaining 33 percent in the cellular operator, is also a contender.
The bidding for Hutchison Essar kicked off in December with valuations of $13 billion to $15 billion and has reached as high as $20 billion.
A comment was not immediately available from Vodafone but its chief executive, Arun Sarin, said on Wednesday the company would not pay “over the top” in the multi-billion-pound battle for Hutchison Essar.
Final bids in the auction for a controlling stake are still weeks away, he said.