India operator Bharti Airtel rejected a local report it is interested in acquiring Vodafone Group’s remaining holdings in Indus Towers, which would boost the second-largest operator’s stake in the infrastructure company to 69 per cent.

In a stock market filing, Airtel denied it is holding discussions with Vodafone Group, adding it has “no desire to raise its stake beyond what is required for financial consolidation” of Indus in Airtel.

Vodafone Group apparently is looking to offload its 21 per cent stake to raise funds to inject in its debt-laden India unit Vodafone Idea. Local media reported earlier in the year Vodafone Idea failed to make monthly payments for use of the towers since it hadn’t secured new funding. Following a January payment of INR3 billion ($36 million), its total debt to the tower company is estimated at about INR56 billion.

Vodafone Group has been looking to sell interest in the tower business for years. In August 2022, it neared an agreement with a Canadian pension fund to sell its remaining shareholding. The deal fell through.

The operator sold 7.1 per cent of its holding in Indus Towers in early 2022.

Bharti Infratel and Indus Towers merged in late 2020, with Vodafone Idea selling its stake, giving Airtel a nearly 48 per cent interest and Vodafone Group a 21 per cent share.

Indus Towers managed nearly 212,000 towers across India’s 22 telecoms service areas at end-2023.