Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Group opened talks to reduce their investments in Indus Tower before the joint venture merges with Bharti Infratel to create the largest tower company in India, with a value of $12 billion to $13 billion, The Economic Times (ET) reported.

The companies each hold a 42 per cent stake in Indus Tower, though ET said the pair are in talks with a consortium led by private-equity company KKR which would see them initially hold 37.2 per cent (Bharti Airtel) and 29.4 per cent (Vodafone) of the merged tower company.

Ultimately, the operators aim to reduce their stakes in the combined business to 13 per cent apiece through deals with KKR and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), ET reported.

KKR is expected to take a 25 per cent to 32 per cent stake in the combined company, with CPPIB and others holding minority interests: the two currently have more than a 10 per cent interest in Bharti Infratel.

The merger, announced in April 2018, is scheduled to receive approval in June, ET wrote.

Vodafone Idea said earlier in the year it planned to sell its 11 per cent interest in Indus Towers, valued at an estimated INR50 billion ($719 million), to reduce its debt.

Bharti Airtel, hit by falling profits and revenue over the past two years, is also looking to sell off assets to reduce its high debt.