Millicom has rejected a bid by Indian state-owned operator BSNL to buyout its Tigo-branded mobile network in Si Lanka, reports India’s Economic Times. According to an unnamed Millicom executive, the development leaves BSNL’s rival Indian operator Bharti, the UAE’s Etisalat and Russia’s VimpelCom as the leading contenders to acquire the business. “We did not match their expectations on the price front. Perhaps we were not aggressive enough,” a BSNL spokesperson told the newspaper yesterday. Millicom is also understood to have rejected an earlier bid from Malaysia-based Axiata, which controls Sri Lanka’s largest mobile operator, Dialog. Tigo is Sri Lanka’s third-largest mobile operator and is estimated to be worth between US$150 million and US$200 million. According to Wireless Intelligence data, the operator had 2.3 million connections by 2Q09.

Luxembourg-based Millicom put its three Asian mobile networks – in Laos, Sri Lanka and Cambodia – up for sale in early July. Yesterday, it was confirmed that Russia’s VimpelCom had acquired its Laos mobile network for US$66 million. However, it is the Sri Lankan business that is generating the most interest. Indian market-leader Bharti said in August it was a mulling a bid that would allow it to combine the business with its own Sri Lankan network in a move that would create the island’s second-largest mobile operator with over 3 million subscribers. Bharti’s Sri Lankan business was launched last year and had 800,000 connections by 2Q09, according to Wireless Intelligence. According to the Economic Times, the UAE’s Etisalat confirmed earlier in the week that it had also put in a bid for Millicom Sri Lanka.