DoT moves against Airtel/TTSL merger

21 Aug 2019

India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has asked the Registrars of Companies (RoCs) in Delhi and Mumbai to halt the merger of Bharti Airtel and the consumer mobile division of Tata Teleservices Limited (TTSL), as the regulator had not given its written approval to the transaction, the Economic Times reports. Airtel announced that it had completed the merger in July this year, after the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) rejected the DoT’s demands on the merger and instructed the ministry to provide the duo with the last of the approvals needed to go ahead with the tie-up. Unnamed industry sources were cited as saying that the DoT will challenge the merger in the Supreme Court on various grounds, including the companies’ competition of the merger through a TDSAT ruling, which the ministry claimed ‘is in contravention … of the approved merger scheme’. A spokesperson for Airtel explained that ‘both parties have operationalised the merger following the TDSAT’s order directing the DoT to take the merger on record’.

The DoT’s opposition to the takeover was originally based on demands related to controversial one-time spectrum charges (OTSC), the validity of which remains sub-judice. As noted by TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, throughout the recent move towards consolidation in the nation’s mobile sector, the DoT has sought to block or delay many of the transactions by withholding approval until the companies involved submit bank guarantees for the disputed OTSC.