Hutchison Telecommunications International's board met yesterday to discuss the sale of its Indian mobile-telephone unit, which potential buyers had valued at as much as US$18 billion, sources said. 'The meeting was to generate a consensus among the directors to decide whether to sell off the Indian mobile business or not,' said a source, declining to give details. 'The board had held talks with a similar agenda at the end of last year but no final decision had been made.' If the board approves the asset sale, Hutchison Telecom will convene a special general meeting of shareholders to vote on the offer. Hutchison Telecom and its parent Hutchison Whampoa, headed by managing director Canning Fok Kin-ning, declined to comment. Hutchison Telecom holds 67 per cent of Hutchison Essar, India's fourth-largest mobile-telephone company by subscribers. Essar Group, an Indian conglomerate whose businesses range from shipping to energy and telecommunications, holds the remainder. Hutchison Essar has drawn interest from Indian and foreign players who have valued the unit at between US$14 billion and US$18 billion. The domestic parties include Essar Group and Reliance Communications. Hinduja Group, an Indian conglomerate active in the oil, media and banking sectors, has also indicated interest in Hutchison's stake in the mobile firm. Vodafone Group planned to submit a bid for Hutchison Essar in a few weeks, the British company's chief executive Arun Sarin said on January 10. Vodafone was willing to partner India's Essar Group in any bid, Mr Sarin said. Hutchison Essar is drawing buyers as the number of mobile subscribers in India is expected to surge amid rising incomes and strong economic growth. The large number of young people, who are more receptive to third-generation mobile telephones, also look appealing to mobile firms aiming to expand in India. Indian laws allow a foreign company to own up to 74 per cent of any telecommunications firm, compared with the 49 per cent cap on companies in other industries, thanks to a change in laws last year. Shares of Hutchison Telecom closed unchanged yesterday at HK$18.50. The stock has gained 23 per cent since November.