Bharti-MTN deal would be celebrated in India: Minister

May 19th, 2008 - 9:35 am ICT by admin  

By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, May 19 (IANS) Indians will celebrate if Bharti Airtel Ltd and South African telecom operator MTN Group strike a deal, Minister of State for Industry Ashwani Kumar told a large gathering of investors here Monday. “Indian companies are now firmly established on the world stage, and the Bhart-MTN talks are only the latest example of this,” Kumar said while launching a two-day India Investors Summit in London.

“We’ll celebrate if Bharti establishes a presence.”

Bharti, the leading mobile operator in India, has been in talks with MTN in London for a possible merger that would create the world’s sixth largest mobile operator, with more than 130 million subscribers in nearly two dozen countries.

Over 350 of the world’s leading boardroom executives and steering industry professionals have gathered in the British capital to map out the core areas of investment and discuss the opportunities and challenges presented by India at the investors’ summit.

The opening day was addressed by David Lewis, Lord Mayor of the City of London, Tata Sons Executive Director Alan Rosling and real estate fund managers Trikona Capital MD Rak Chugh among others.

Kumar said that despite a “perceived global slowdown”, India’s economic competitiveness would continue - the country was insulated because of strong domestic consumption and savings.

India’s foreign exchange reserves stood at $320 billion and the economy was poised to grow at over 8 percent.

In the last year alone, the country had attracted $29 billion in foreign direct investment, he added.

“Despite an imported inflation arising from high oil and food prices we have been able to handle the global pressure well. We have managed the political economy,” Kumar said.

Indian food prices are 30 percent lower than global prices, partly as a result of government subsidies, he said.

However, Kumar also indicated there were factors that were plainly out of India’s control, such as the use of agricultural land for biofuels.

The situation may have been different, “if people had not taken over land meant for agriculture for example,” Kumar told IANS later.

Kumar said 490 million Indians had come out of poverty in the last 20 years, and that 290 million more were expected to follow by 2020.

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