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Bharti Group Secures $460 Million in Funding

SINGAPORE -- Indian telecom conglomerate Bharti Enterprises has secured US$460 million to fund its plan to build a pan-India footprint for its cellular and fixed-line businesses.

"We are honoured to have partners who stand by us and are willing to share Bharti's dream and vision," said Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman and Group managing director of Bharti Enterprises. "These investments are more than just resources for the Group to realize its vision. They reflect the faith and trust that our partners vest in us and in India's telecommunications framework."

SingTel, in particular, has committed close to half of the US$460 million. Its US$200 million investment in this latest round of fund raising by Bharti has increased its total investment in India's largest private-sector telecom services company to US$650 million.

Bharti has also announced that "a number of financial investors" have separately committed investments totaling US$260 million. Among them is U.S.-based E M Warburg Pincus.

Said Lee Hsien Yang, SingTel's president and chief executive officer, "Nine months ago, SingTel chose Bharti as its partner in India because we were impressed with the vanguard role the group had played in the development of Indian telecommunications. Bharti has made much progress since then and we are pleased to be increasing our investment in the group.

"SingTel's commitment to Bharti extends beyond the provision of financial resources. As a strategic partner, SingTel is able to share its international experience and expertise in different aspects of operating a telecommunications business.

"I am pleased to note that a number of joint Bharti-SingTel working groups have been formed to manage improvements in areas like fixed-line and cellular operations, network planning and the provision of data services. We strongly support Bharti's goal to become a leading integrated telecommunications player in India," he added.

Network i2i, a Bharti-SingTel joint venture, was recently formed to implement and administer India's first private submarine fiber-optic cable. The i2i cable network is a self-healing 10,800 kilometer ring network that links Singapore, Chennai and Mumbai. Another Bharti-SingTel joint venture, Bharti Aquanet Ltd. - will manage and operate carrier hotels and cable stations in India.

Bharti has formed numerous joint ventures with telecom players such as British Telecom and Sweden's Telia, Warburg Pincus, AIF Funds Management Ltd., International Finance Corporation, and New York Life International.

The company's latest round of projects to utilize the recently acquired US$460 million will include the construction of a long distance backbone network, acquisition of cellular licenses, and the provision of fixed-line services in new service areas.

Bharti already provides cellular services in Delhi, Chennai, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh. The telco plans to bid for new cellular licenses in a number of areas including Mumbai, Calcutta, Punjab, Gujarat and Kerala.

For fixed-line services, Bharti already has a business in Madhya Pradesh and has plans to roll out services in Delhi and Haryana, the national capital region, as well as Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, India's major software development centers.