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RCOM, Aircel to merge wireless operations

29 Feb 2016

Reliance Communications (RCOM) and Aircel are planning to merge their wireless businesses, with each company set to take a 50% stake in the combined unit, the Economic Times writes. Under the plan, RCOM and Aircel will each transfer INR140 billion (USD2.03 billion) of debt to the wireless company, whilst Aircel is also reportedly retaining the 2300MHz spectrum it had previously planned to sell to Bharti Airtel. The deal is expected to be closed by 30 September 2016, provided there are no delays in acquiring regulatory and court clearances, and the company could be listed a year after that date. In addition to its 50% stake in the enlarged wireless operator, which will also be rebranded as part of the deal, RCOM will focus on data centres, direct-to-home (DTH) TV, fibre-optic networks, enterprise business and submarine cable operations.

The announcement follows last week’s confirmation that the Competition Commission of India (CCI) had approved the merger of RCOM and Russian-owned Sistema Shyam Teleservices (SSTL). Through that deal, SSTL will take a 10% stake in RCOM in exchange for its mobile operations being taken over by the latter.

The three-way merger will establish a company with around 200 million customers, making it the second largest cellco by subscribers after Bharti Airtel, and just ahead of Vodafone. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Airtel represented 243.3 million mobile users at end-December 2015, whilst UK-based Vodafone claimed 193.6 million.

India, Aircel, Reliance Communications (RCOM), Sistema Shyam TeleServices (SSTL, MTS India)

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