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Videocon in partnership talks; towercos to capitalise on consolidation

20 Feb 2014

Videocon Telecommunications Ltd (VTL) may be the next of India’s smaller cellcos to be snapped up by the market’s dominant providers, following the revelation that it is open to consolidation and is involved in talks with potential strategic or financial partners with a view to growing its business. Chief executive Arvind Bali was quoted by the Economic Times as saying: ‘Like any growing organisation, we too seek partnerships and investments to grow our business, and there is interest shown by others for partnering and investment. Though such decisions take time and will be taken at the board level, we are open to exploring investment avenues and partnering with others.’ Bali’s comments follow on the heels of the announcement that Bharti Airtel has agreed to purchase another of the industry’s smaller providers, Loop Mobile, as analysts expects high spectrum prices and limited funds to drive minor players to look for an exit from the market. Bali dismissed doubts about Videocon’s future in the sector, adding: ‘We have made a comeback early last year with a regional presence and a strategic footprint in seven circles. This is the Hindi-speaking belt accounting for 42% of the country’s population. We have lots in hand, including rollouts in UP-West, UP-East and Bihar and a 4G LTE [Long Term Evolution] rollout.’

In related news, the owners of two of India’s tower companies are looking to capitalise on the expected consolidation in the market by selling the businesses. According to TMT Finance, Ascend Telecom, which owns around 4,500 towers, has been put for sale by its backers New Silk Route and TVS Interconnect Systems with a valuation of up to USD500 million. Meanwhile Tata and Srei Infrastructure are reportedly keen to sell off towerco Viom, having hired Citi and Credit Suisse last year to assess their options. Viom operates around 42,000 towers and claims to be the world’s largest independent towerco. Potential buyers are understood to include Bharti Infratel, the infrastructure arm of mobile giant Bharti Airtel, Indus Towers and GTL Infrastructure.

India, Bharti Airtel, Loop Mobile, Videocon Telecommunications Limited (VTL)

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