Update (June 6th): The merger received approval from the Competition Commission of India on Tuesday, as per the telco’s BSE filing.
Earlier (June 2nd): Bharti Airtel’s proposed merger deal with Telenor has received approval from market regulator SEBI and stock exchanges BSE and NSE. Airtel has also applied to the Competition Commission of India and National Company Law Tribunal, a special court looking into business deals, for further approvals. The proposed acquisition will transfer all of Telenor India’s assets, licenses, and customer base of 44 million into Airtel including Telenor’s active operations in 7 circles— Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Gujarat, UP (East), UP (West) and Assam. Both companies had entered into discussions in January, and that time an ET Now report pegged the size of the deal at $350 million.
Airtel is set to acquire close to 43.4 MHz of additional spectrum in the 1800 MHz band through the acquisition deal. Airtel will additionally take over all outstanding spectrum payments and other operational contracts, including tower leases. Telenor India’s operations and services will continue to operate independently until the completion of the transaction.
Note that Telenor India had earlier mentioned that it was evaluating options in India after industry turned competitive. Telenor India also skipped 2016 spectrum auctions stating that the reserve prices did not give “an acceptable level of return.” During Q4 2016, Telenor lost 689,000 subscribers and another 185,000 users in Q3 2016 post launch of Jio.
After the entry of Jio, Smaller players in the industry are either looking to merge with rivals or phase out operations completely. Apart from this, the third largest operator Idea Cellular is now merging with the second largest operator Vodafone for creating India’s largest telco to take on Jio.
Other Airtel spectrum acquisitions
Bharti Airtel, on the other hand, has been focusing on 4G expansion to keep up with Jio:
-During 2016 auctions, Airtel acquired 173.8 MHz worth of spectrum.
-It completed acquiring 20 MHz of 4G spectrum under the 2300 MHz band owned by Augere Wireless.
-It had also bought Aircel’s 20 MHz of spectrum under the 2300 MHz band in 8 circles.
-In May last year, Airtel acquired Videocon’s spectrum in the 1800 MHz band for Rs 4428 crore across 6 circles. Following these spectrum purchases, Airtel said that it completed rolling out 4G in all of its circles except Jammu & Kashmir.