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Tata to Become First India iPhone Maker as Wistron Approves Sale

(Bloomberg) -- Tata Group is set to seal a deal to become India’s first homegrown iPhone maker, after Wistron Corp. agreed to sell a plant in the southern part of the country to the conglomerate.

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Wistron’s board approved the sale of Wistron InfoComm Manufacturing (India) Private Ltd. to Tata for $125 million, the Taiwanese electronics manufacturer said Friday in a statement. The unit operates an iPhone assembly plant near Bengaluru, a person familiar with the matter said.

Tata, an airline-to-software conglomerate, has been in talks for more than a year to take over the plant, as it seeks to forge closer ties with Apple Inc. The deal advances India’s efforts to create local contenders to challenge China’s dominance in electronics, which has been jeopardized by political tensions with the US.

Apple’s iPhones are mainly assembled by Taiwanese manufacturing giants like Pegatron Corp. and Foxconn Technology Group.

Wistron is one of three Taiwanese iPhone manufacturers in India, along with Foxconn and Pegatron. It has sought to diversify its business beyond thin-margin iPhone manufacturing into areas such as servers, agreeing to sell its iPhone production business in China to a competitor in 2020.

After the deal has been confirmed by both parties, the companies will seek regulatory approvals, Wistron said.

Tata has taken other steps to increase its business with Apple. It has accelerated hiring in its factory in Hosur, near Bengaluru, where it produces iPhone components. That plant stands on several hundred acres of land where Tata could add iPhone manufacturing lines in the coming years. Tata has also announced that it will launch 100 Apple stores in the country of 1.4 billion.

The 150-year-old Tata Group makes everything from branded salt and Tetley Tea to steel and Jaguar cars, and runs an airline and Starbucks cafés in the country. Its Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. is Asia’s largest IT outsourcing company and one of India’s most valuable by market capitalization.

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