BT to sell stake in Hong Kong's SmarTone

Cash-strapped British Telecommunications PLC has agreed to sell its roughly one fifth stake in Hong Kong cellular operator SmarTone Mobile Communications Ltd.

The London company will sell its 21 percent stake for HK$1.03 billion (US$132.1 million) to Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd., which already owns around 30 percent of the company and will become its majority owner when the deal is completed. BT said it expects that to happen in January.

The deal comes after Sun Hung Kai unit Cellular 8 Holdings Ltd. slightly raised its takeover offer for SmarTone earlier this week to HK$8.50 per share.

SmarTone had just under 1 million subscribers at the end of its financial year in June 2002. During that year it recorded a profit of HK$115 million on turnover of $2.4 billion, according to its financial report.

BT has been selling off stakes it owns in telecommunication carriers around the world as it battles debts of around £13 billion (US$20.1 billion). In October, Vodafone Group PLC said it would pay €4 billion (US$3.9 billion) for BT's 26 percent stake in French wireless operator Cegetel SA.

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