Hong Kong/Mumbai: India's Reliance Communications, which has a USD 925 million convertible bond maturing in March and has failed so far in efforts to sell its tower unit, is in talks with China Development Bank  for a loan to redeem the bond, a person with direct knowledge of the matter said.   

India's second biggest mobile operator by subscribers,  controlled by billionaire Anil Ambani, has been trying for more than a year to sell its tower business in a deal that could be worth more than USD 3 billion.   

Separately, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter said a deal for the towers, which would allow the company to pay down a big chunk of the USD 6.5 billion in net debt on its books as of the end of September, was not close to completion.   

The company has been in talks with U.S. buyout giants Carlyle Group and Blackstone Group on a deal for the towers business, sources have told Reuters.   

Ambani told shareholders in September that a private-equity deal for the towers would be the largest such transaction ever in India. He did not elaborate or give a time-frame for closing.   

The company is looking to secure a leasing agreement for its towers from Reliance Industries, controlled by Anil Ambani's once-estranged brother Mukesh, before pressing forward with a tower sale, the two sources said.   

In a statement to Reuters, Reliance Communications said it would "ensure timely redemption of FCCBs (foreign currency convertible bonds) due in March 2012." The company declined further comment, and did did not immediately respond to a separate query on the status of the tower sales process.   

Reliance Industries, an energy-focused conglomerate that is India's most valuable company, plans to launch nationwide broadband services using fourth-generation wireless technology.   

 A Reliance Communications official said in November the company was talking to other telecom companies to offer its towers on lease but did not name possible tenants.    

The tower business, Reliance Infratel, has more than 50,000  towers but gets most of its revenue from its parent.   

 It has fewer external tenants than Indus Towers, which is jointly owned by Bharti Airtel, Vodafone’s Indian subsidiary arm and Idea Cellular.   

If Mukesh Ambani's cash-rich Reliance Industries strikes a deal to use the towers of Anil Ambani's Reliance Communications, it would be the first business tie-up between the two scions of India's richest family since they buried the hatchet in their long-running feud in 2010.

(Agencies)