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RCOM mulls sale of DTH & data centre business to recover debt

Anil Ambani led Reliance Communication said in an investor’s release that it might look at selling its DTH business in order to clear off its mounting debt. It said that “the company is developing plans for further deleveraging and servicing of balance debt” which stood at Rs 45,000 crore at the end of FY17. Plans include:

-sale of global and domestic data centre businesses
-sale of DTH business unit
-monetization of 49% upside in tower unit
-monetization of Delhi property
-monetization of 50% stake in Aircel

RCOM’s DTH business, Reliance Digital TV currently claims to have 5 million subscribers in India. With competition in the telecom sector intensifying, plus mounting debt and falling subscriber base, it makes sense for RCOM to hive off it’s DTH unit, since the segment is also seeing some pressure. Two of its competitors in the DTH segment—Dish TV, Videocon D2H—have announced a merger deal, which will create a combined user base of more than 28 million. While Bharti Airtel has been adding new Android features to its DTH boxes as well as signing strategic tie-ups with content providers. Jio, which had shaken the market with its freebies, is also reportedly looking to enter the DTH space.

Apart from this, RCOM also operates managed hosting services under its subsidiary company named Reliance Globalcom.  Reliance Globalcom rebranded as Global Cloud Exchange in 2014 and moved its headquarters from India to New York in the same year. It had called off a deal with Bahrain Telecommunication Company (Batelco) for around Rs 6,000 crore. Subsequently, in 2014, the company’s CEO Bill Barney told Reuters that “Reliance Globalcom is no longer for sale.” However, RCOM’s indication that the unit is now up for sale signifies that it is willing to go all in with its Indian telecom business.

RCOM’s lenders initiate process to convert debt into equity

The telco’s plans to sell off its subsidiary units comes at a time when its lenders have decided to initiate Strategic Debt Restructuring (SDR) process, giving the company time until December 2017 for repayment of all outstanding debt. The telco said that it plans to pay out Rs 25,000 crore in debt to its lenders by that time, bringing down its overall debt by 60%. If the company fails to make the payment by December, lenders will have the right to convert a part of the debt into equity shares.

RCOM plans to raise Rs 24,000 crore from two transactions to reduce debt: a) merger with Aircel’s wireless business unit which was signed in September last year will help the company reduce debt by Rs 14,000 crore, b) while its tower sale deal with asset management company Brookfield will contribute the remaining Rs 11,000 crore.

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