Friday, August 11, 2006

Hutch - Essar spat

Essar calling off the sale of BPL Mumbai circle operation to Hutch does not make much sense. Hutch has contested the decision and the Mumbai High Court has asked them to go for arbitration. So something amicable may be worked out here.

Essar is, after all, a partner of Hutch in the joint venture. Essar's attempts therefore looks more like an attempt by a peeved partner to cause serious hurt to Hutch, rather than well measured business decision.

In the mobile space in India, Bharti and Reliance have zoomed ahead. Bharti has had the least of problems. Reliance had trouble when Mukesh and Anil Ambani fought amongst themselves. Now that there is some degree of resolution there, Reliance is forging ahead.

If Hutch had worked out an aggressive strategy it could have reached number two position. Instead, now, it is in a distant fourth position (with BSNL/MTNL combo at number 3), and Idea, Tata Telecom both hot on its heels behind. Others including Maxis owned Aircel will be aggressively snapping up the new users in the 'C' circles.

Essar who has substantial stakes in Hutch Essar JV should realise that a stronger Hutch Essar, when it goes IPO will offer higher premium per share in the stock markets. You don't get a premium when you are number 4. Both number 1 & 2 are listed entities. Idea and Tata Telecom are well funded, but not strong enough brands compared to Hutch. But if Essar continues to harm the JV, Hutch will be left behind, thereby robbing Essar of valuble wealth.

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