Malaysian telecom firm Axiata has pulled its investment in Vodafone Idea, the Economic Times reported. With this strategic stake sold off (it’s unclear to whom) Axiata is effectively out of the Indian telecom market. The telco’s shareholding in VIL has been shrinking, and was down to 1.05% in November. Vodafone Idea declined to provide a comment, but told ET that it was “committed to serve” its customers. Axiata pulling out its investment in VIL comes even as Jio Platforms managed to raise over Rs 1 trillion from investors, including tech giants Google and Facebook.
In addition to bleeding operationally, Vodafone Idea also has to grapple with uncertainty over paying its AGR dues to the government, an issue on which a Supreme Court ruling remains pending. If VIL is not allowed to stagger its payment over many years, it may face collapse. There was talk that Google might want to invest in the telco, but that doesn’t seem to have materialised. The search giant said that its US$10 billion corpus for India investments would not see further investments as big as the US$4.5 billion it put into Jio.
While Vodafone and Idea merged to become the largest telco in the country, Jio surpassed their combined subscriber base in mid-2019, making matters slightly harder for VIL. The next hearing in the AGR case is scheduled for 2pm on Friday.