Canada-based Brookfield Asset Management reportedly is looking to acquire Idea Cellular’s and Vodafone India’s tower assets for an estimated INR64.5 billion ($1 billion).
A source told The Economic Times (ET) negotiations are ongoing and a deal could be finalised within a month. While Vodafone and Idea were seeking a valuation of more than $1.3 billion, the tower market slumped substantially due to consolidation and a reduction in tenancies per site.
Other Indian media reported American Tower was also in talks with the two operators about buying their tower assets.
Idea’s tower unit owns about 11,000 towers, while Vodafone India has 10,926 and is expected to create a separate tower company, which would be part of a combined deal with Brookfield, ET said.
Vodafone and Idea in March announced an agreement to combine their operations in India to create the country’s largest telecoms operator, with about 400 million customers, a 35 per cent market share by subscribers and 41 per cent market share by revenue.
The two operators, along with current market leader Bharti Airtel, also hold stakes in the world’s largest tower company Indus Towers, which is not part of the Vodafone-Idea deal. Vodafone holds a 42 per cent stake in Indus, and Idea 11.15 per cent.
Third-ranked Idea announced in November 2016 plans to sell its tower unit for an estimated $1 billion, after dropping earlier plans to sell a minority stake.
Other operators in India have recently raised funds by selling off tower assets.
Airtel in March sold a 10.3 per cent stake in its tower unit Infratel to a consortium of investors for INR61.9 billion, funds which will be used to reduce the company’s debt.
Reliance Communications in October 2016 agreed to a non-binding pact to sell a 51 per cent stake in its tower assets to Brookfield Infrastructure Group for a consideration which includes an upfront cash payment of INR110 billion.