NEW DELHI: Escorts has reached a $80 million agreement with IFC for its telecom business ($60 million in 8-year debt and $20 million in equity). The development expedites the drawn-out process of selling a 49% stake in its telecom holding company, ESTEL, to international investors for about $200 million, and it ties funds to the launch of new cellular projects under Escorts Telecom (ETL). For the sale of the 49% stake, Escorts has been negotiating equity deals with US-based New Bridge Capital and an arm of AIG, who are driving a hard bargain against the backdrop of a battered telecom environment globally. Company representatives acknowledged the IFC agreement but would not comment on the current negotiations. Overall, Escorts needs about $250-300 million to set up new projects, make acquisitions in southern India, and buy back stake from its foreign partner in the existing cellular business. IFC’s exact holding will be determined after the equity deal with New Bridge and/or AIG is finalized, possibly within the next few weeks. Investors are not giving Escorts’ telecom business the valuation the promoters are looking for. While the IFC and other foreign equity will come in the Escorts’ holding company, ESTEL (Escotel Telecommunications Ltd), the IFC debt will come in ETL, which plans to launch four new projects. The (telecom holding) company would probably be valued at around $400 million, according to a source. Escorts’ telecom business is undergoing a complicated restructuring, with ESTEL serving as the holding company for two businesses: Escotel Mobile Communications and ETL. Escotel Mobile Communications offers cellular service in Kerala, Punjab, and the western part of the United States, and it has about 6,00,000 subscribers. ETL received four new operating licenses last year to provide services in Punjab, Rajasthan, Himachal About $100 million in losses have been accrued by this company. First Pacific owns 49% of the company, and it is anticipated that it will depart the JV. ETL, on the other hand, needs about $ 100 million for new projects and may require vendor credit despite the IFC $ 60 million loan for setting up mobile networks. ESTEL is also looking for a few acquisitions in Tamil Nadu, Chennai, and Karnataka circles. Within the next two years, Escorts expects to have a 10% market share (or around 3 million users).
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