BSNL eyes global market, plans acquisitions

November 7th, 2008 - 6:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Nov 7 (IANS) State-run telecom operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) is looking at international markets to expand its services, and is even considering acquisitions, a top company official said here Friday.”We have started looking at markets in Africa and Middle East countries. It depends on the competition. We have made a bid in Middle East and are exploring other options,” BSNL chairman and managing director Kuldeep Goyal told reporters at a press meet during the launch of its data card for voice and data services.

The company is planning expansion in mobile and broadband segments in countries where telecom density is low.

He also said the company is looking at acquisitions, saying: “We will definitely consider that also. We have just started thinking on that line.”

BSNL is also planning to hive off its tower business. “We are planning to make our infrastructure division into a separate company to generate more revenues,” Goyal said, adding that American consultancy Boston Consulting Group has been appointed to evaluate the infrastructure business.

In the current fiscal, BSNL has a plan to invest Rs.180 billion, and similar plans for the next financial year fiscal as well. But next year, Goyal said, investments could be even scaled down to around Rs.140-150 billion on account of the economic meltdown.

The BSNL chief ruled out his company would come out with an initial public offer (IPO), an issue that was much discussed of late. “Looking at the current market scenario, I don’t think an IPO can come now. It depends on the market condition.”

The BSNL board has approved an IPO, with the the proposal now lying with the telecom ministry. The telecom operator proposed dilution of about 10 percent stake.

Dwelling on other plans, Goyal said BSNL is eyeing a mobile subscriber base of about 100 million by 2010-11 and hopes to add seven to eight million customers in the remaining part of the current financial year.

At present, BSNL’s total mobile service base is 39.17 million till September, of which 2.96 million connections got added in the April-September period.

On BSNL’s plans for third generation (3G) services rollout, he said the company would first target the cities in the north and the east - in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Orissa - in the “early part” of 2009.

“We expect about 2 percent of the total mobile subscribers in the country to shift to our 3G service once it is launched.”

Regarding submarine cable laying, Goyal said BSNL was part of a seven company consortium, Europe India Gateway (EIG), which would lay a trans-Atlantic undersea cable link. The telecom operator will invest $50 million in the project.

In addition, Millennium Telecom Co, promoted by BSNL and Mahanagar Telecom Nigam Ltd (MTNL), will float a tender for laying another submarine cable line. “It will be on both the east and west; one side going towards Singapore and another to Europe.”

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