Aircel plans $1.4 bn investment this year

GSM service provider plans to expand its operations and become a pan-India operator by June

Telecom service provider Aircel today said it plans to invest $1.4 billion (over Rs 6,474 crore) this year on expanding its operations and become a pan-India GSM operator by June, reports PTI.

"We plan to invest $1.4 billion this year for expanding our networks and on existing operations. By June 2010, we plan to have operations in all 23 telecom circles in the country," Aircel chief operating officer Gurdeep Singh told PTI.
Talking about the company's future investment plans, Mr Singh said Aircel will invest another $2.6 billion in the next two years (2011 and 2012).

At present, the telco operates in 18 telecom circles across the country. It plans to launch its service in the remaining circles of Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Punjab by June, making it a pan-India operator.

Aircel is also aiming to triple its subscriber base to a record 100 million users by 2012, said Aircel director Sandip Das, who is also the chief executive officer of Maxis Communications.

Malayasia's Maxis Communications controls Aircel. At the end of January, Aircel had a subscriber base of 33 million.

Aircel is at the fifth place among pure GSM operators, with a market share of 8.38% after Bharti, Vodafone, Idea and BSNL.

Asked whether Aircel has plans to go for an initial public offering and list the company on bourses, Mr Das said there was no plan this year to raise funds through this route.

"The company's growth is not restricted for lack of funds," he added. "The tower (business)  hive-off had given us liquidity of around $3 billion. We will reinvest (it) in the current business," Mr Singh said.

Last month GTL had acquired 17,500 towers from Aircel for $1.8 billion (Rs 8,400 crore) with rights to roll out 20,000 more towers for Aircel.

Apart from speeding up its pan-India growth, Aircel plans to foray into the enterprise business segment and target corporate and SME (small and medium enterprises) customers.

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    Ashok Leyland, Paramount ink defence deal

    Indian commercial vehicle manufacturer inks multi-million dollar deal with South African defence systems manufacturer.

    A multi-million dollar deal with India's Ashok Leyland will see South African defence systems manufacturer Paramount Group developing its second joint assembly plant outside the country, reports PTI.

    Paramount already has a joint assembly plant in Azerbaijan. Leyland and Paramount inked a deal at Defexpo 2010 in New Delhi last week.

    According to the terms of the agreement, the two companies will manufacture mine-protected armoured vehicles at a joint plant to be constructed in India, an African daily reported, quoting an unnamed Paramount spokesman.

    Ashok Leyland will invest more than $10 million in the plant over the next year before the first vehicle comes off the line.

    "Initially, basic components manufactured in South Africa would be used to assemble the vehicles in India before the production line there starts making all components," the report said.

    The new vehicle, dubbed Stallion, will combine the specification of two Paramount mine-resistant vehicles, the Marauder and the Matador, with Ashok Leyland's basic four-wheel-drive military vehicles.

    Paramount is one of South Africa's leading defence systems contractors, providing defence, peace-keeping and internal security solutions to government agencies worldwide.

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    Indian banks' exposure to Dubai limited, says RBI

    RBI deputy governor plays down impact of crisis-hit Dubai World on Indian banks

    A senior official of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has said that the exposure of Indian banks to crisis-hit Dubai World is in the range of $275-300 million and it will not have any material impact on the sector's performance this year, reports PTI.

    "About four or five Indian banks are owed a combined $275-300 million. The RBI is fully aware of the exposure and we do not think it will have any huge impact on any bank in particular," RBI Deputy Governor K C Chakrabarty told media persons on Monday.

    Commenting on the impact of the global crisis on the UAE and Dubai, Mr Chakrabarty said the Gulf country's government and the Central Bank have taken effective measures and there is no reason to panic.

    On granting licences to foreign banks to open branches in India, Mr Chakrabarty said it will be decided on a reciprocal basis.

    A number of UAE-based banks have shown interest to start operations in India and large lenders like the State Bank of India are also keen to set up branches in the Gulf country.

    Speaking at a meet organised by the Emirates Bankers Forum at the Dubai International Financial Centre, Mr Chakrabarty said India was less impacted by the global financial crisis because of its conservative monetary and fiscal policies.
    "We are not claiming that we had any special formula. It is a combination of prudent monetary and fiscal policies and to a great extent, good luck that helped India withstand the crisis," he said.

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