(Updates with Citic statement, context)
NEW DELHI, May 22 (Reuters) - China’s Citic Telecom is in exclusive talks to buy into the undersea cable assets of India’s Reliance Communications Ltd, the Financial Times reported on Thursday, citing unnamed people familiar with the talks.
If completed, the move would create a 50-50 joint venture valuing Reliance Communications’ cable assets at $1 billion, the newspaper said, adding Citic Telecom had beaten two other bidders from the Middle East earlier this month.
Both Reliance Communications - India’s fourth-biggest mobile phone operator by customers and controlled by billionaire Anil Ambani - and Citic Telecom declined comment on the report.
Hong Kong-listed Citic Telecom said it “engages in discussion with interested parties all over the world and from time to time regarding potential cooperation”.
Reliance Communications is the most-leveraged among listed Indian phone carriers, with net debt at the end of March reaching $6.8 billion, more than five times its core operating profit, Reuters calculations show.
The company has in the past unsuccessfully tried to raise funds through the sale of stakes in its transmission tower and undersea cable units.
After a botched Singapore flotation of the undersea cable assets in 2012, talks to sell a stake in the business to Bahrain’s Batelco collapsed last year. ($1 = 58.7750 Indian Rupees) (Writing by Devidutta Tripathy; Editing by Sumeet Chatterjee and David Holmes)