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Will exit Vodafone, still evaluating foray into banking: Ajay Piramal

Piramal Healthcare on Thursday said it plans to offload its 11 per cent stake in telecom major Vodafone India and is well on track.

'We had invested in Vodafone and it was 24-36 months exit plan. We are still within the track for that and we will exit either sometime this year or next year,' Piramal Group Chairman Ajay Piramal told reporters on the sidelines of a conference here.

Pirmal Healthcare had picked up 11 per cent stake for Rs 5,900 crore in two tranches in the Indian arm of Vodafone.

The company had paid Rs 2,893 crore in August 2011 for 5.5 per cent stake and then paid another Rs 3,007 crore in February last year for another 5.5 per cent holding.

Piramal said his company chose to invest in Vodafone for the short-term because of strong growth prospects. The company was expecting 17-20 per cent return in around 18 months period.

'We are merely a short-term investor in Vodafone. We don't want to be in the telecom sector for the long-term. We have three options to exit. We could exit whenever Vodafone comes out with its initial public offering (IPO), or we could sell our stake to other companies, or we could even sell it to Vodafone itself,' Piramal earlier said.

To a question on his group's foray into the banking space, Piramal said the group is still evaluating the prospects. 'There are 100 people looking at entering into banking and there will be probably 5-6 licences. There is still time and we are still evaluating what we will do. We are in the process of evaluation,' he said.

The Ajay Piramal Group, at present flush with funds from the sale of its domestic formulations business, had evinced interest in banking business. RBI in February issued the final guidelines for licensing of new private sector banks wherein entities both from private and public sector shall be eligible to set up a bank through a wholly-owned non-operative financial holding company (NOFHC).
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