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SBI Macquarie fund picks up 11% stake
August, 12th 2010

SBI Macquarie Infrastructure Fund (MSIF) has picked up 11 per cent stake in telecom infrastructure company Viom Networks, previously known as Quippo-WTTIL, for $304 million.

The $1-billion fund bought out the stake from SREI group-promoted Quippo Telecom Infrastructure (QTIL), which has a 46 per cent stake in Viom. This is its largest investment in India till date for MSIF, Mr Varun Bajpai, CEO of SBI Macquarie Infrastructure Management, said at a press meet here on Wednesday.

SBI Macquarie Infrastructure Management is a joint venture of Macquarie Capital and State Bank of India.

The stakes held by the Kanoria family, GIC Singapore, IDFC Private Equity and Oman Investment Fund (all of whom are investors in QTIL) will come down, said Mr Sunil Kanoria, Vice-Chairman of SREI.

The India-focused MSIF recently invested Rs 125 crore in an arm of Adhunik Power and Natural Resources.

Last week QTIL completed the process of merging with WTTIL (the tower arm of Tata Teleservices). The deal that was announced last year. Under the terms of the merger, QTIL had to pay Rs 2,400 crore to TTSL and also transfer its existing telecom infrastructure comprising 5,000 towers to WTTIL.

QTIL will use the proceeds from the MSIF stake sale to repay loans taken a year ago for making the payments to TTSL as part of the merger plan. This fund infusion by MSIF will make QTIL a debt-free company, said Mr Kanoria. Viom Networks is keen to bring on board a couple of more investors, he added

Tower assets

Operators in India's ultra competitive mobile telephony market have been shedding their tower businesses and renting capacity to cut debt and lower costs. However, demand for tower assets is set to increase as winners in a recent 3G licence auction start to roll out third generation services.

Viom, which now has 37,000 towers with 80,000 tenants, plans to add up to 25,000 towers in the next two years, Mr Arun Kapur, Chief Executive Officer, said.

This will involve an investment of up to Rs 8,000 crore, which will be funded through debt from public sector banks and non-banking financial companies.

The company could also go in for an initial public offering in one to three years, Mr Kanoria said.

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