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Loop Mobile scouts for strategic partners to fund licence renewal

Tuesday, 3 December 2013 - 10:13am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

There could be some hope for Loop Mobile users facing frequent call drops, if the company succeeds in locating a strategic or financial partner to renew its licence expiring sometime in November 2014.

Among the names doing the rounds for Mumbai circle include PVR, Airtel and Vodafone.

The latest name floating around is that of Vodafone as its marketing and sales team have been aggressive in targeting Loop’s 32 lakh customer base in Mumbai circle with number portability.

So far, despite regulatory framework, permitting customers to retain the same number was being highly discouraged by players.

However, this time around there has been no opposition by Loop Mobile nor has there been any feedback taken from customers opting ‘out’ of their services.

Vodafone’s senior management was unavailable for a comment, however, Loop Mobile’s corporate communications head, Shalini Gupta dismissed the take-over talks. She did acknowledge the fact that the company was looking at strategic or finance partners for renewing its license expiring in November 2014.

Vodafone’s sales campaign across malls and other outlets has been vocal over the takeover.

Many sales teams were overheard telling customers that the takeover by Vodafone is imminent once the Rs11,000 crore tax claim of the government gets resolved.

“These are marketing gimmicks to increase customer base and there is no way anyone can acquire this company due to policy-related issues,” said a top honcho at Essar group.

But for the customer base, there would be little interest for big players like Vodafone that has its own problems to start with, said a senior executive familiar with the group. The company is currently engaged in buying out stake from existing shareholders like Analjit Singh, resolving tax disputes, and clarity on spectrum, he added.

Incidentally, Vittorio Colaho, Vodafone group’s chief executive will be visiting New Delhi on Dec 4 for a book launch on women empowerment, a CSR initiative of Vodafone Foundation.

Talks in Delhi circles are rife that Colaho would be meeting the finance minister, P Chidambram to wriggle out of the tax mess.

The company has been news since its India entry in 2007 through a Netherlands-based subsidiary that had acquired Hutchison Telecommunications International Ltd’s stake in Hutchison Essar. The deal has been seen as taxable by sleuths in India which despite a court ruling in favour of Vodafone is causing heart burns in government circles.

“The government has fallen flat on its face and talks of a face-saving formula could be worked out by Vodafone,’’ said a government official in Delhi.

On the Loop takeover talks, the company has been bleeding with bank exposures of over Rs600 crore, Hence talks of any takeover may not hold in good stead for want of buyers, said another senior executive familiar with Loop’s financial crunch.

“Who would want to touch Loop Mobile even with a barge pole. It would be suicidal to do so,” he added. All telecom players are bleeding here, however, if at all there’s any interest in Loop it could be for the its spectrum and customer base. “A different system to acquire the (above) two assets could be plausible,” said another industry watcher.


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