Vodafone buys stake in Indian operator

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Vodafone Group PLC will acquire 10 percent of Indian mobile and fixed line operator Bharti Tele-Ventures Ltd. (BTVL) for 66.56 billion rupees (US$1.48 billion), the company said on Friday.

The deal supports Vodafone's strategy of expanding into growth markets, Vodafone said in a statement.

As many as 65 million Indians already use cell phones, but that still represents only 6 percent of the potential market, Vodafone said. BTVL has 14.1 million mobile customers, or 22 percent of the current market.

BTVL also operates a fixed line business. Fixed-line penetration in India is 4 percent, and BTVL recorded 39 percent fixed-line customer growth in the six months ending in September, Vodafone said.

Vodafone expects the deal to close in the first quarter of 2006.

In Asia, Vodafone also has a mobile network in Japan, where the company has struggled to get a foothold in the competitive and saturated market. Vodafone also owns 3 percent of China Mobile.

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