India's top mobile operator Bharti Airtel and smaller rival Aircel Cellular are interested in buying the yet-to-be-launched Indian wireless broadband business of US-based Qualcomm in India, The Economic Times reported today.
Qualcomm, which spent about $1 billion to buy 3G and wireless broadband airwaves in four circles in an auction earlier this year, is looking to exit the business for a minimum of Rs5,000 crore ($1.1 billion), according to an earlier report.
Bharti is mainly interested in Qualcomm's airwaves and permits for the Delhi circle, while Aircel, majority owned by Malaysia's Maxis Communications, is keen on acquiring the Mumbai and Kerala circles, the paper said on Thursday, quoting unnamed industry executives.
It said two top Bharti executives recently met Qualcomm's south Asia head, who also met a top Maxis executive.
Reliance Communications, the country's second-biggest mobile operator, and Tata Communications may also be interested in Qualcomm's business, the paper said.
Aircel, a unit of Malaysia's Maxis Communications and the country's seventh-biggest operator, has shown interest in the Mumbai and Kerala circles.
Bharti's top two executives Akhil Gupta and Sanjay Kapoor met Paul Fiskness, Qualcomm's senior vice-president for strategic investment and South Asia head Kanwalinder Singh to discuss the terms and conditions under which the California-based chip maker wants to exit. Sandip Das, chief executive of Maxis Communications, was the interlocutor on behalf of Aircel.
An Airtel executive said company officials regularly meet with top Qualcomm personnel as the chip maker is a major player in the 3G and LTE space, adding that such meetings could not be considered as being related to buying the latter's operations in India. Aircel's chief operating officer Gurdeep Singh denied any meetings with Qualcomm.
''We are yet to decide if we want to go in for WiMAX or LTE as the technology platform when we roll out broadband wireless services, which rules out any possibility of a deal or meetings with Qualcomm at this stage,'' Singh said.