Packer junior plans Indian web invasion

Jamie Packer, international playboy and son of media mogul Kerry, is throwing some of his vast resources behind India's growing band of internet whizz-kids.

Mr Packer, who is the joint chief executive of the Packer family's private company, Consolidated Press Holdings (Conspress), has expanded the telecommunications operation by taking a 10 per cent stake in the $3.5bn (£2.1bn) Himachal Futuristic Communications Ltd (HFCL).

"With globalisation, India's technology is poised to do well over the next few decades," Mr Packer said. "India has a huge domestic market and an opportunity for exports of software."

The $395m deal launches the Australian family into India, which has one of the fastest-growing middle-class populations in the world and is particularly noted for its computing and software expertise. The investment is the largest to be undertaken by a foreign company in India's telecommunications sector.

Jamie Packer's high-stakes bet on India's technology market is the kind of daring move that has come to typify the Packer family. His father Kerry, who is worth a reputed £1.5bn, is a regular at London's most high-rolling casino tables. Indeed, last year he was reported to have lost £11m during one evening at the West End gaming club Crockford's. Jamie Packer, who is no stranger to newspaper gossip columns, has nevertheless proved himself a formidable businessman in his own right.

Conspress already has a presence in the telecoms market through its 8 per cent holding in the mobile telephone business One.Tel, in which Rupert Murdoch has a 25 per cent stake. CP Ventures, a Conspress subsidiary, also has a 3.9 per cent stake in the Easycall Group, which provides paging and messaging services to South-East Asia.

Similarly, HFCL controls one of the largest paging service companies in India, Microwave Communications, and owns 41 per cent of the fixed line telecommunications business Essar Commvision. HFCL also has research and development centres in Delhi and Bangalore that focus on access, internet protocol and broadcast technologies.

Conspress and HFCL said they planned to combine the strengths of their companies and have formed two joint ventures. Himachal will own 51 per cent and Conspress 30 per cent of each of those companies, as yet unnamed.

The ventures will develop software products and services and there will be investment in the development of network infrastructure, to be deployed across India.

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