BANGALORE, Dec 10 - Wireless tower firm American Tower Corp (AMT.N) is expected to take a controlling stake in India's Essar Telecom Infrastructure in a deal valued at $350-$400 million, the Economic Times reported on Thursday.

The deal may be announced in the first week of January and Barclays Capital is advising Essar on the transaction, the newspaper said, citing an unnamed official in one of the two companies.

Essar Telecom Infrastructure, the telecom tower arm of the Essar Group, is among the smaller players in the country with over 4,000 mobile phone towers, it said, adding spokesmen for the Essar Group and ATC declined to comment on the deal.

A spokeswoman for Essar Telecom declined comment when contacted by Reuters.

Sources have earlier told Reuters American Tower is one of the four suitors for Indian cellular firm Aircel's 12,000 towers. [ID:nBOM476418]

India, which offers some of the cheapest call charges in the world, is a lucrative market for a tower firm as low prices put pressure on operator margins and on their network capex, leading to more tower sharing and leasing to save costs.

American Tower, which is spreading its wings in India, also sees opportunities in China as third-generation services drive demand for sharing of masts, Amit Sharma, president of Asian operations, told Reuters last month. [ID:nBOM536975]

The company owns about 2,500 towers in India after buying local firms Xcel Telecom and Transcend this year, and Sharma said they could nearly triple that in the next 18 months. (Reporting by Sumeet Chatterjee; Editing by Ranjit Gangadharan)