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India To Auction 3G Telecom

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India was to have auctioned the radio airwaves in January, but the sale was put off after the finance ministry sought a doubling of the floor price, citing the high valuations of telecoms stake sales around that time.

"Definitely... in 2009 itself," Raja told reporters when asked when the sale would be completed.

The telecoms ministry had forecast the auction would raise up to 400 billion rupees ($8.5 billion). The proceeds would help the government bridge the fiscal deficit, which rose to 6.2 percent of GDP in the 2008/09 fiscal year that ended on March 31.

However, Raja would not be drawn on how much the government expected to raise, saying market conditions had changed.

"Because of the meltdown, because of the slowdown in the economy ... I can not assess the situation now," Raja said.

"I am going to consult the finance minister within a couple of days."

In the last government, a GoM was set up to decide on the reserve price of the auction but before it could do anything elections were announced. The GoM has lapsed since then a new government has taken place.

Third-generation wireless services allow voice, data and video to be transmitted at high speeds to mobile devices, and are seen as the next growth driver for telecoms firms in India, the world's fastest growing mobile market.

On the Bharti-MTN proposed deal, he said he would soon have a discussion with the DoT officials on the issue.

On the revival plan of the sick manufacturing unit ITI, Raja said, "Possibilities are that it will be sold partly. Experts are giving suggestions and Expressions of Interest have already been called."

(Agencies)