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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 December 2006, 16:48 GMT
Vodafone 'eyes Indian expansion'
Man using mobile phone by poster showing Hindu god with modern technology equipment
India's mobile market is growing fast as consumer spending rises
Vodafone shares have fallen on reports it is preparing a bid for Hutchison Whampoa's Indian mobile phone business.

The mobile phone giant is widely expected to offer as much as $13.5bn (6.9bn) for Hutchison Essar.

The move would be consistent with its strategy of expanding in fast expanding markets to offset slow European growth.

But, further reports suggest Vodafone may face a rival bid from India's Reliance Communications. All of the companies declined to comment.

Vodafone's shares slipped almost 2%, or 2.5 pence, to 143.5 pence in afternoon trade on the London market.

Vodafone currently has interests in emerging markets including Egypt, Romania and India - and underlined its ambitions for further expansion in similar markets at an investor meeting earlier this month.

The news came after it unveiled a 3.3bn half-yearly loss in November as it was hit by higher interest rates, competition and some of its assets being worth less than it thought.

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