Vodafone Group may sell stake in Bharti to comply with rules

UK-based Vodafone Group will sell its 4.4% stake in Bharti Airtel if rules no longer permit telecom operators to keep share in competitors, a top executive of Vodafone India said.

In a letter to the telecom ministry last year, Vodafone had said it holds 4.4% stake indirectly in Bharti.

"The share is not with us, it's with Vodafone Group so we really don't know... I can only say if the rules don't allow us to keep it then we will not keep it. We are not going to sell the Indian operations to hold 4.4% in Bharti," Vodafone India MD and CEO Marten Pieters told PTI.

He said the company will abide by the rules and regulations of the country and if the rules say that Vodafone can no longer own the stake, than they (Vodafone Group) will have to find a buyer.

The new rules bar holding stake in competitors as both Vodafone India, a subsidiary of the UK-based group and Bharti Airtel offer telecom services in India.

Vodafone has to sell its entire stake in Airtel following new norms issued by government that bars a telecom operator from holding any kind of stake in competition under Unified Licences (UL).

Vodafone and Airtel currently operate on Unified Access Service Licence (UASL) licence, or 2G licences, under which telecom companies are permitted to hold up to 9.9% stake in other firms.

However, as per the new rules, telecom service providers operating under previous licences will have to migrate to new licences on expiry of their permits and sell stakes held by them in any rival within a year of getting UL.

Vodafone has applied for UL in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata.

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