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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 March, 2004, 05:20 GMT 06:20 UK
3G firm plans telecoms spin-off
3 shop in Italy
Hutchison's European 3G businesses are making heavy losses
Hutchison Whampoa is to spin off its emerging-market telecoms business in an attempt to defray the costs of its third-generation mobile business.

The Hong Kong-based conglomerate will fold mainly mobile units in Sri Lanka, India, Israel, Thailand, Macau, Ghana and Paraguay into a new firm.

This will then be floated in an initial public offering that may raise up to US$1bn (550m).

Hutchison is under pressure to offset the costs of launching 3G services.

In Europe, where its 3G business are concentrated - with operations in six countries - the firm has already invested $22bn in the new technology.

Big money

Hutchison intends to retain control of the new firm after its listing.

In all, the new company will boast 10 million mobile subscribers, about half of whom are in the fast-growing Indian market.

Valuing such a company is reckoned to be tricky, but most estimates start around $4bn.

The company will be bulked out by some of Hutchison's Hong Kong interests, including a modest-sized fixed-line telecom provider.

Into the red

Hutchison is seeking to allay investors' fears over its heavy bet on 3G.

In all, the company has 3G interests - at various stages of development - in nine countries.

Only in Italy and the UK have full services been launched, and analysts have been disappointed with the results.

Citigroup recently predicted that Hutchison would lose $2.6bn on 3G this year, slightly more than it lost in 2003.

The company contends that 3G is a long-term investment that will not pay off quickly.

But in the meantime, it needs to realise cash to keep the business going.

Its main businesses are infrastructure and property, and it is the world's biggest operator of container ports.

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