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Business News 2009
Business News->Vodafone to invest heavily in India
Vodafone to invest heavily in India

New Delhi, January 19, 2009 (IANS)

Vittorio ColaoBritish telecom giant Vodafone Monday said it will continue to invest heavily in India. The announcement came at the same time as Vodafone Essar, one of India's leading cellular service providers, stated that it has crossed the 7.5 million subscriber mark in Gujarat. Vodafone with a coverage in more than 236 cities and towns and 15,120 villages has seen its subscriber base jumping from 2 million in January 2006 to 7.5 million in January 2009 in the state.

"A wide network spread across cities, towns and villages coupled with relevant products such as the Vodafone Magic Box and a strong sales and distribution network have contributed to the phenomenal growth in our subscriber base in Gujarat," said Balesh Sharma, chief operating officer of Vodafone Essar, Gujarat.

The company now has 54 stores, 385 mini-stores, and self service kiosks across the Gujarat circle. Vodafone Essar is a subsidiary of Vodafone Group in India and commenced operations in 1994 when its predecessor Hutchison Telecom acquired the cellular licence for Mumbai.

Vodafone Essar now operates in 22 circles with over 58.76 million customers. Worldwide Vodafone is present in 25 countries spread across five continents with 40 partner networks covering 280 million customers. It has partnered with the Essar Group for the Indian market.

“We see an addition of eight to nine million mobile subscribers here. This means India needs more investment. We will continue to invest more as there are opportunities here,” Vodafone Plc chief executive Vittorio Colao told reporters on the sidelines of a Confederation of Indian Industry conference here.

“We still have four percent stake in Bharti Airtel. One day we (Vodafone and Bharti Group) will discuss what to do with it,” he said, adding: “To have a discussion on any issue we need to have both the partners.”

Vodafone, which earlier held a 10 percent stake in Bharti Group, had exited it partly, while its indirect stake in the group's mobile arm, Bharti Airtel, remained. Colao also called for more clarity in India's foreign investment policies across different sectors. Exuding confidence in India's growth potential, he said India should extend a welcoming hand to foreign investors in order to attract much-needed capital to keep growth on track. According to him, a "suitably regulated yet liberal policy environment" would be beneficial for India's growth prospects.

Vodafone last year acquired a controlling stake in the Hong Kong-based Hutchison in a $1.2-billion deal to take control of Vodafone Essar - which is the second largest GSM operator in India in terms of subscribers.

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