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Bharti Airtel Gains in Mumbai After Credit Suisse Raises Rating

July 9 (Bloomberg) -- Bharti Airtel Ltd. climbed in Mumbai trading, poised for its biggest gain in almost 14 months, after Credit Suisse Group AG raised its stock rating to “outperform,” citing an improved competitive environment.

Bharti, India’s biggest mobile-phone company, surged 8.5 percent as of 11:58 a.m. local time to 305.10 rupees, set for its largest percentage gain since May 18, 2009. The stock was the best performer on the benchmark Sensitive Index which rose 1 percent. Trading volume jumped to more than four times the six-month daily average.

Tariff wars in India, spurred last year by the entry of Japan’s NTT DoCoMo Inc. and Norway’s Telenor ASA with cut-price plans, are over and large operators have “emerged unscathed,” wrote Credit Suisse analyst Bhuvnesh Singh, who raised his share-price estimate for Bharti to 360 rupees from 320 rupees.

Idea Cellular Ltd., which also had its rating raised at the brokerage, gained 12 percent to 66.45 rupees. Volume was sixfold the six-month daily average. Reliance Communications Ltd., Bharti’s closest rival which had its rating increased to “neutral,” added 3.1 percent to 193.65 rupees.

Reliance has lost 24 percent in the past year making it the worst performer on the Sensitive Index, which has climbed 30 percent in the period. Bharti is the second-worst index stock in the 12-month period, having declined 24 percent.

Call rates in India, the world’s largest wireless market after China, fell to less than a penny a minute as more than a dozen operators vied to win market share. Operators including Bharti and Vodafone Plc’s Indian unit paid 509.7 billion rupees ($11 billion) in a recent government spectrum auction in the hope that third-generation services would help revive earnings. About half the nation’s 1.2 billion people still don’t use a cell phone, according to India’s telecom regulator.

“At first glance, nothing seems to be right in the Indian telecom sector,” wrote Credit Suisse’s Singh. “Deeper analysis suggests that the tide is turning. Revenue market shares are steady, high auction prices could force most players to avoid competitive actions and regulatory risks could be exaggerated.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Ketaki Gokhale in Mumbai kgokhale@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Foxwell at sfoxwell@bloomberg.net.

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