Russian government bailout boosts Sistema's Indian plans

The Russian Federation has allocated over $670 million in this year's budget to pick up an around 20-per cent stake in the Indian joint venture Sistema Shyam Teleservices Ltd, according to the company president and chief executive officer, Vsevolod Rozanov.

Russia's Sistema, which holds a 74-per cent majority stake in the JV, would offload a part of its stake to the Russian government. The Indian partner, Shyam Group, would retain its 23.5-per cent share in the company, Rozanov said in Kolkata on Thursday on the sidelines of the launch of its CDMA telecom service under the MTS brand.

The balance 2.5 per cent share in the company is with the public. Russia would infuse the equity by December through an agency governing federal assets, Rozanov added.

The company also unveiled aggressive growth plans, targeting a 10 per cent share in the Indian mobile market in the next five years. Unperturbed by the slowdown, the company is committed to its 22-circle expansion plan by mid-2010, including rollouts in the Mumbai and Delhi circles by December.

"SSTL is targeting around 35-40 million subscribers in five years. We plan to start services in two to three new circles every quarter. Next in line are the circles of West Bengal and Bihar/Jharkhand. Number portability will also drive growth for us," Rozanov said.

''We will cover the whole of Bengal by the end of June. Bihar and Jharkhand will be under our towers by July and we hope to enter the Delhi market by August. We aim to launch our services in Mumbai by the end of this year,'' Rozanov said.