Bharti Airtel has completed its acquisition of Tikona Digital Networks as a first step towards the merger deal, the company said in its regulatory filings. “With the said acquisition of shares, Tikona Digital Networks Limited has become a wholly owned subsidiary of Bharti Airtel,” the company added. However, the transaction involving trading of spectrum in Rajasthan circle is yet to be approved by the DoT.
In March, Airtel confirmed the spectrum acquisition deal and said that the deal is subject to regulatory, shareholders and other customary approvals. A Mint report at that time pegged the size of the deal at Rs 800-1000 crore.
Note that Airtel’s acquisition of Tikona is mainly for stacking up its spectrum portfolio. Tikona had won 20 MHz of the 2300 MHz band (used for 4G) in 5 service areas including Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh (East), Uttar Pradesh (West), Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh during 2010 broadband spectrum auctions. Airtel does not have 4G spectrum in UP circles (East and West), and the deal will primarily help Airtel to strengthen its 4G portfolio in these circles.
Airtel has been on an acquisition spree after the entry of Reliance Jio which has 4G spectrum in all 22 circles. Apart from Tikona acquisition, Airtel is also acquiring its rival operator Telenor’s India’s assets, licenses, 43.4 MHz of spectrum in the 1800 MHz band, customer base of around 40 million and Telenor’s active operations in 7 circles. The deal was signed in February this year; an ET Now report pegged the size of the deal at $350 million.
Vodafone tried buying Tikona but instead acquired YOU Broadband
Note that Airtel’s rival Vodafone had earlier tried to acquire Tikona’s 4G spectrum in December 2015, but the deal did not materialize. Vodafone, instead went on to acquire YOU Broadband’s entire business unit including spectrum assets for a reported Rs 350-400 crore. Vodafone India and Idea Cellular led by Aditya Birla are also merging their operations; this is the biggest ever consolidation in India’s telecom sector, to take on Reliance Jio.
Tikona’s unsuccessful attempt to launch 4G
Tikona had abandoned its 4G broadband plans earlier mainly due to increasing competition. It had announced in October 2015 that it would launch “4G broadband plans” in 30 cities by the first half of 2016 but instead ran a pilot project in Varanasi for home and enterprise users. Tikona also provides wired broadband services in 23 cities. It had raised $171 million from an independent US government investment agency in January.