UAE telco Etisalat says it has earmarked up to US$4bn for either an acquisition, or license to operate, in India.

Mohammed Omran, chairman of Etisalat, says the time is right for a purchase. "The market value for [Indian] shares have gone down a little so it's a good time for us to consider entry," he told journalists in Abu Dhabi. He indicated that Etisalat, the Arab world’s second-largest telco, could spend in the range of $1bn to $3-$4bn depending on the opportunities available, and the percentage of a business that was available.

Etisalat is already on record as saying it has held talks with several Indian businesses, including Spice Communications. "Our aim is to buy into an operator that covers most of India, and Spice is one possibility," he added. Etisalat has had an operating monopoly in the UAE for many years, and also part-owns the nation’s second telco, Du.

India is an extremely buoyant cellular market with around 8m new mobile subs being added each month. The nation has an estimated 250m mobile users. “Our target is that international operations contribute 20 to 30 percent of net profits in three to four years," said Omran.