SingTel – BT

Bharti close to buying Qualcomm unit: sources

Qualcomm Inc is asking Bharti Airtel Ltd, India's largest mobile-phone operator, to pay about 50 billion rupees (S$1.16 billion) for its Indian unit as the two companies seek to conclude talks in the next two weeks, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

Bharti may purchase the unit in instalments over two years, the people said, declining to be identified as the details are private. Under the plan, Bharti would initially purchase a 26 per cent stake in the unit, currently held by Tulip Telecom Ltd and Global Holding Corp, and Qualcomm will own 51 per cent of the division for at least two years after that, the people said.

Qualcomm, the biggest maker of mobile-phone chips, bought frequency licences in cities including New Delhi and Mumbai in June 2010, paying 49.1 billion rupees for spectrum that allows handset users to download video at greater speeds. The San Diego, California-based company was allocated spectrum this month, two years after paying for the airwaves, people with knowledge of the matter said on May 8.

Mobile-phone operators in India including Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Group Plc are trying to boost revenue by selling services such as video streaming as incomes rise. The number of smartphones sold in India almost doubled last year to 11 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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