Vodafone to announce Hutch bid within "couple of weeks": CNN-IBN

Mumbai: UK-based Vodafone Group Plc, which has made a bid for Hutchison Whampoa's 67-per cent stake in Hutchison-Essar, will make a firm offer in the "next couple of weeks," news channel CNN-IBN web site reported today.

Vodafone's Indian-born CEO Arun Sarin was quoted as saying, "We are thinking about it at this stage. So we will determine that over a period of time," on the web site.

Sarin is in New Delhi to drum up support from government officials and Indian partner Bharti Airtel Ltd for Vodafone in the tussle for control of Hutchison-Essar.

Though Sarin is expected to meet the high-profile commerce and telecom ministers Kamal Nath and minister Dayanidhi Maran, he is unlikely to meet prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh. In any case the PMO has been reported as saying that it would not getr involved in an entirely private sector issue.

Vodafone is reportedly discussing with Bharti and SinTel Ltd. (which owns 30.8-per cent in Bharti Airtel) the possibility of selling Vodafone's 10-per cent equity in Bharti in the event of it acquiring Hutchison Whampoa's stake in rival Hutch-Essar.

The Essar Group, which holds the minority 33 per cent in Hutch Essar, Anil Ambani's Reliance Communications Ltd., and the Hinduja Group have all expressed an interest in buying the telecom carrier.

The Hindujas would put in a bid this month in partnership with financial institutions or private equity funds, the Business Standard said, quoting Chairman Ashok Hinduja.