Former managing director of Vodafone Essar, Asim Ghosh, is in talks with Max India founder and chairman Analjit Singh to sell his 2.39 per cent stake in the mobile phone operator. Ghosh holds the stake in Vodafone Essar indirectly, through various holding companies. Analjit Singh was the original promoter of the company.
In December, Ghosh had sold a 2.29 per cent effective stake in the company to the UK firm for Rs 330 crore. Based on the earlier valuation, he should rake in Rs 344 crore, if the negotiations with Singh fructify. The deal with Ghosh's AG Mercantile as well as Analjit Singh's Scorpio Beverages (through which they indirectly hold stakes in Vodafone-Essar) helped Vodafone increase its total stake in Vodafone Essar--from 52 per cent to 57.6 per cent. The other major equity holder in the company is the Essar group, which has a 33 per cent stake. Vodafone also bought a part of Analjit Singh's effective stake, which came down to 3.87 per cent from the earlier 7.5 per cent.
Ghosh, however, denied any move to get out of the company, terming such a report as "only speculation". But, sources among the promoters of Vodafone Essar said the deal was very much under discussion. Ghosh is expected to leave India shortly and join his previous employer, Hutchison Whampoa, in Canada, were he will head its oil company.
Ghosh, who was part of the initial crack team of Pepsico in India under Ramesh Vangal, had an 11-year-long stint with Vodafone-Essar, earlier known as Hutchison-Essar. He had joined the company in 1998 and left it in 2009. During this period, he played a key role through acquisitions, as well as aggressive marketing, to challenge the might of Bharti Airtel in the GSM space. And, got the company firmly entrenched as the second largest GSM player in the country, with over 100 million customers.