BSNL eyes Luxembourg telecom firm's Sri Lanka unit, Celltel

In its move to expand to markets outside India, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) has submitted a bid to acquire Sri Lankan telecom firm Tigo (Private) Limited (formerly, Celltel Lanka Ltd), a subsidiary of Luxembourg-based telecom operator Millicom International Cellular SA.

Kuldeep Goyal,  chairman of the state-run telecom major, confirmed to mediamen yesterday that BSNL has made a bid for Millicom. However, he declined to elaborate on the matter.

Millicom, controlled by Sweden's Kinnevik Investment AB, provides prepaid wireless services in emerging markets. It has mobile phone operations in 16 countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa and cable and Internet businesses in Central America. The Group's mobile operations have a combined population under license of approximately 308 million people.

The company is selling its assets in Asia, including units in Cambodia and Sri Lanka. Millicom expects to complete the deals by the first quarter of 2010.

Earlier on Monday, the UAE's Emirates Telecommunications Corp (Etisalat) said in a statement to the Abu Dhabi stock exchange that it had bid for the Sri Lankan assets.

There were earlier reports that Bharti Airtel, which recently launched its mobile operations in Sri Lanka, was also looking at the Millicom unit.