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Vodafone may sell its entire 42% stake in Indus Towers to Bharti Infratel

Bharti Airtel's mobile tower arm Bharti Infratel and Vodafone hold 42% each in India's largest mobile tower firm Indus Towers and the rest is held by Idea Cellular

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

Photo: Shutterstock

British telecom major is open to exploring opportunities for sale of stake in Indian mobile tower firm — its joint venture with and Cellular.

If the plan fructifies, it is expected to create more value for the group.

"We will explore strategic options, including the full or partial sales of our 42 per cent stake in Indus Towers, which could create further value for the group... we are also deleveraging our balance sheet by over $8 billion...," Group Chief Executive Vittorio Colao said during an analyst and investor conference on Tuesday.

has a net debt of $8.2 billion.

Bharti Airtel's mobile tower arm and Vodafone hold 42 per cent each in India's largest mobile tower firm and the rest is held by Cellular.

is looking to acquire partial or full stake in

Colao said Vodafone's interests "are aligned to the ones of and, if anything, has been patient in waiting for this deal to happen to then start the formal discussion on what to do with the stake".

The Vodafone and merger agreement, according to Colao, will create opportunities on Indus Towers.

"And we will be all aligned in a good monetisation solution," Colao said.

Vodafone Chief Financial Officer Nick Read said any tower sale proceeds received by Vodafone or prior to closing of their merger will not affect the valuation of their deal.

"Additionally, separating Indus Towers from Vodafone Ltd as part of the transaction crystallises the opportunity to explore strategic options to monetise some or all of this valuable asset for the Vodafone group," Read said.

About the ongoing merger dynamics with Idea Cellular, Colao said it will make the resultant entity India's largest telecom operator with number 1 or 2 in 21 out of 22 circles in terms of market share.

"With over 2,73,000 combined GSM sites and 189,000 3G or 4G sites, we will more than match our largest competitors in the market today," Colao said.

He also said the combined entity will have 163 broadband carriers, with more than six carriers in 13 circles, which will allow it to deliver "up to 250 Mbps speeds to customers".

Colao expects synergies between the two will improve returns on capital from the current levels.

According to Read, the Birla group, the promoter of Idea, will have the right to purchase up to 9.5 per cent stake in the combined entity from Vodafone during this period at an equity valuation of $14.1 billion.

"This implies an 80 per cent premium relative to the undisturbed share price of Idea. If this right is exercised, Vodafone would receive proceeds up to $1.34 billion in cash depending on the forex rate at the time, and the shareholdings for both parties would equalise to approximately 35.5 per cent," Read added.

First Published: Wed, November 15 2017. 12:58 IST