The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has greenlit the long-delayed acquisition of Telenor India by Bharti Airtel, after the Supreme Court rejected the regulator’s attempt to force Airtel to supply a bank guarantee of INR14.99 billion (USD222 million) as a prerequisite for its approval. The duo had initially agreed the deal back in February 2017, and passed the majority of its regulatory hurdles by June that year, although approval from the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) took until January 2018. The DoT, however, had refused to approve the pact until the operators had submitted deposits relating to contentious spectrum charges, which are the subject of an ongoing, decade-long legal dispute.
In its announcement, the DoT explained that it has now transferred all of Telenor’s concessions, licences and resources to Bharti Airtel, along with all of the Norwegian-owned cellco’s liabilities – including those of the quashed licences and spectrum previously granted to Unitech Group. As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, the terms of the cash-free merger will see Airtel take over Telenor’s spectrum, infrastructure and subscribers, along with its outstanding spectrum payments and other operational contracts.