Bharti Airtel, the largest mobile operator in India, received approval from the Competition Commission of India to acquire conglomerate Tata Sons’ consumer mobile units.
In October Airtel said it planned to merge its Indian operations with Tata’s consumer mobile businesses, which consist of Tata Teleservices and Tata Teleservices Maharashtra.
The merger still requires approvals from numerous agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Board of India, the National Company Law Tribunal, the country’s stock exchanges and the telecoms department, Livemint reported.
If approved, the deal will give Airtel access to some 42 million Tata Teleservices subscribers, according to official figures at end-July, and a strengthened spectrum footprint. Tata Teleservices operates 19 circles which cover “the bulk of India’s population” the company stated when the deal was originally announced. Airtel will also have use of Tata’s existing fibre network.
Airtel also will take over about 20 per cent of INR90 billion ($1.4 billion) to INR100 billion in deferred payments for Tata’s spectrum, Livemint said.
A price war kicked off by the entrance of Reliance Jio in September 2016 prompted a much needed wave of consolidation in India, where there are currently ten mobile players.
In early 2017 Tata Group and Bharti Enterprises discussed combining their telecoms, overseas cable, enterprise services and TV businesses together in a mega merger. However, Bharti ditched the plan in August, stating it wanted to focus on its acquisition of Telenor India and offload part of its stake in tower business Bharti Infratel.
Airtel is also in the process of acquiring Telenor India. Number two player Vodafone India, meanwhile, is in the process of merging with the country’s third largest player Idea Cellular, with the combined company looking to establish itself as the new market leader in the country.