Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing’s Hutchison Whampoa agreed to buy Orange Austria in a deal valued at €1.3bn ($1.7bn), adding to more than $31bn of investments in overseas mobile-phone operations, reports Bloomberg. Hutchison 3G Austria, the local unit of Hutchison, expects to complete the purchase of Orange Austria in the middle of this year, the Hong Kong parent said in a statement today. Some Orange Austria assets, including mobile carrier Yesss!, will be sold to Telekom Austria Group for €390m after the acquisition, Hutchison said.
France Télécom is in advanced talks to sell its 35 per cent stake in Orange Austria to Hutchison Whampoa, the WSJ reports, citing people familiar with the matter who said the deal could be finalised in the coming weeks, and would value Orange Austria at €1.4bn. Private-equity group Mid Europa Partners owns the remaining 65 per cent stake in the Austrian mobile company, which is the country’s third-largest provider with about a fifth of the market. One of the sources said Hutchison is one of several bidders for the France Télécom stake in Orange Austria. A spokeswoman for Mid Europa Partners declined to comment. Read more
Vodafone is to pay $5bn to buy the Essar conglomerate out of the UK mobile phone group’s Indian business, reports the FT. Vodafone said that put and call options were being exercised, under which Essar would sell its 33% stake in Vodafone Essar, the UK group’s Indian business, for $5bn cash. The deal should resolve an increasingly acrimonious dispute between Vodafone and Essar over how to value the Indian conglomerate’s minority stake in Vodafone Essar. In 2007 Vodafone bought a 67% controlling interest in what was then Hutchison Essar for $10.9bn. It was then renamed Vodafone Essar. Indian authorities meanwhile are pursuing Vodafone for $2.5bn in tax they insist is due on the 2007 deal. Read more
Singapore Exchange on Wednesday said it would launch what it claims will be the world’s fastest trading platform on Aug 15, a $195m project called SGX Reach, reports the WSJ. Also, the exchange said, it would eliminate its 90-minute lunch period to give investors a bigger trading window. The news came on the same day that Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-Shing said his HK-listed company Hutchison Whampoa would make an initial public offering in Singapore of its Chinese ports business, which it hopes will raise as much as $6bn. The exchange normally struggles to attract big China-related IPOs. As part of its expansion push, SGX is pursuing a deal to acquire Australia’s ASX for $8.4bn. Read more
Hutchison Whampoa’s forthcoming listing in Singapore of Chinese port assets may raise more than the island state’s combined 31 initial public offerings last year, boosting the city’s efforts to compete as a financial center, reports Bloomberg. Hong Kong-listed Hutchison, controlled by billionaire Li Ka-shing, said on Tuesday it would sell a stake in a trust holding container ports in Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong province, along with associated businesses and some Chinese river ports. The sale could raise $6bn, eclipsing the $4bn raised by Singapore Telecommunications in 1993. Read more
Vodafone has been ordered to pay Rs25bn ($553m) to India’s top court while the mobile phone operator challenges a long-standing dispute with the country’s tax authorities related to its $11bn acquisition of a domestic operator in 2007, the FT reports. The Supreme Court also ordered Vodafone to submit bank guarantees, worth Rs85bn, within eight weeks that would cover the outstanding portion of the $2.5bn claim made by the Indian tax authorities last month. Vodafone has been asked to pay Rs112.18bn by the Indian tax authorities in back taxes for its acquisition of a 67 per cent stake in Hutchison Essar, now known as Vodafone Essar, from Hutchison Whampoa of Hong Kong in 2007. The Supreme Court on Monday adjourned the case until February 24 2011. Vodafone said the deposit would returned in full with interest if the court finds in favour of the telecoms group. Read more
Vodafone’s partner in its Indian joint venture is understood to have met bankers in London and Mumbai to prepare for a multibillion-dollar flotation of its stake in the UK mobile phone business, reports the Guardian. Indian conglomerate Essar Group retained a 33% stake in the venture after Vodafone bought out its original partner, Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa, in 2007 for £5.7bn. Under that deal, Essar gained a year-long option under which it could also sell its stake to Vodafone after three years. That period began in May this year. Read more
Billionaire Li Ka-shing’s Hutchison Whampoa offered HK$4.23bn ($545m) to take a phone unit private after the stock underperformed the Hong Kong benchmark index for three years, reports Bloomberg. Hutchison said on Friday it would buy outstanding Hutchison Telecommunications International shares at HK$2.20 each, 33% above the stock’s last-traded price on Jan 4. The delisting plan is part of Hutchison’s push to reorganise its phone units after last year’s merger of a wireless division in Australia with the local arm of Vodafone. Read more
Hutchison Whampoa, the Hong Kong ports-to-retail conglomerate controlled by billionaire Li Ka-shing, is considering a possible buy-out offer to take its loss-making telecoms subsidiary private. Hutchison Telecommunications International (HTIL), an emerging markets-focused telecoms group spun off from Hutchison six years ago, has a market value of about $1.02bn. Its shares were suspended from trading on Monday at HK$1.65 each, as HTIL said a bid from Hutchison, its controlling shareholder with a 60% stake, “may be imminent”. Read more
United Utilities’ £1.2bn sale of its electricity distribution business has received “well over 10” firm expressions of interest despite credit market upheavals, including from private equity bidders, infrastructure funds and utilities companies, said people familiar with the situation. United Utilities expects the first round of bids at the end of the month and has retained Deutsche Bank to manage the sale, which it hopes to complete by within the year. Possible private equity bidders are understood to include 3i, and it has been reported that Li Ka-shing, owner of Hutchison Whampoa, was considering an offer. The sale is likely to attract many of the same bidders as Southern Water, which is being sold by Royal Bank of Scotland. Read more
India’s foreign investment regulator is to review Vodafone’s $11bn deal for control of mobile operator Hutchison Essar today after the country’s central bank questioned whether its shareholding breaches legal limits, the FT reports.
At issue is whether Hutchison Essar, through a complex shareholding arrangement, has violated an Indian law that limits foreign direct investment in domestic telecoms operators to 74 per cent. Read more
Essar is set to be paid $415m (£214.3m) under a settlement aimed at ending the threat of legal action hanging over Vodafone’s takeover of Hutchison Essar, India’s fourth largest mobile operator. Essar, an Indian conglomerate, has threatened court action that could scupper Vodafone’s take-over. The UK mobile group plans to buy companies that control a 67 per cent stake in Hutchison Essar from Hutchison Telecommunications International, an associate company of Li Ka-shing’s Hutchison Whampoa. But people close to Essar, which has a 33 per cent stake in Hutchison Essar, have repeatedly claimed it has a right of first refusal over the sale of the 67 per cent stake. Vodafone and HTIL have insisted Essar does not have such a right. Read more details of the delicate parallel negotiations. Read more