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Bharti BT Eyes Nasdaq

Bharti BT Internet says it is currently evaluating a Nasdaq listing.

The company, a 51-49 joint venture ISP by Bharti Enterprises and British Telecom plc, has targeted 70,000 customers by March 2000 for its Internet service ManthraOnline.

Bharti BT has not yet taken a firm decision for Nasdaq listing, but CEO N Arjun only said that it is "obviously a very good time to float an Internet stock. The success of Satyam Infoway is encouraging."

Arjun said the firm was interested in an IPO in the United States and a listing on the Nasdaq, but a decision on such a move would have to be made by the shareholders of the JV partners.

"It makes more sense for an Internet firm to be listed on the Nasdaq than in India. For us, it would take at least 12 months to [list in India]."

The company launched ManthraOnline in May this year and currently reports a user base of 46,000 customers (paid users: 35,000) in eight locations.

"We should have 70,000 customers by March 2000, which is about 12 per cent of the total market," Arjun said. "We have been adding about 6,000 new customers every month."

Apart from Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, Bharti BT is present via a franchise agreement in five cities in Madhay Pradesh, where sister concern Bharti Telenet operates a fixed-line network. Plans are underway to launch services in Calcutta, Chennai, Hyderabad and Pune.

Services will be expanded in 15 locations. The company is hoping to consolidate operations by bringing Category C ISP licensees, who normally operate in a local area, under the Bharti BT umbrella.

Arjun says that the company had applied for clearances to set up its own Internet gateway and was expecting the green light by this month.

"If we get all the clearances on time, we should be able to launch the gateway in March," he added. "In two years' time, we want to be one of the top four ISPs in terms of customer base, and one of the top five Internet portals in the country."