Hutchison Whampoa Ltd, the Hong Kong-based conglomerate, has taken its first major steps into the US telecommunications market by taking stakes in Western Wireless Corp and its personal communications service Western Wireless Corp unit for a total investment of around $323m. The Issaquah, Washington-based Western Wireless provides cellular and GSM-based phone services to over 100,000 subscribers in the west of the US. This year the unit won an additional 100 PCS operating licenses, awarded by the FCC in its ‘D’ and ‘E’ Block auctions. Hutchison Whampoa already owns Hong Kong’s largest GSM network and holds a 49% stake in UK GSM operator Orange Plc. Western Wireless said it will issue new shares to Hong Kong-based HWL’s Hutchison Telecommunications Ltd unit, representing a 19.9% stake in its Western PCS Corp unit for about $248m. Hutchison Telecoms will also buy 5% of the parent company’s stock for about $74m. The deal is due to close during the fourth quarter, following regulatory approval. Western Wireless is a member of the GSM Alliance, formed in July to market coast-to-coast GSM coverage across the US and Canada. The other six members are Aerial Communications Inc, BellSouth Mobility DCS, Microcell Telecommunications Inc., Omnipoint Communications Services Inc, Pacific Bell Mobile Services and Powertel Inc.
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