India-based Bharti Airtel is edging towards an agreement to acquire Telenor’s local unit and is likely to finalise the deal by the end of February.
According to the Hindustan Times, the two companies entered into the final stages of discussions, and India’s largest player will make a final decision on the acquisition on 24 January.
Airtel entered into discussions with Telenor at the start of this month, following widespread rumours, which originated in April 2016, the Norwegian operator was considering an exit from India.
Speculation regarding an exit was heightened in October when Telenor decided not to participate in the country’s mammoth spectrum auction, although the operator said the decision was due to high reserve prices.
Telenor was also linked with Airtel’s rivals about other possible deals, including Vodafone India and Idea Cellular, but nothing concrete emerged.
The Economic Times reported earlier this month the deal with Airtel could be worth $350 million, while Telenor also owes nearly INR19 billion ($280 million) to the government in deferred spectrum payments and other debt of around INR18 billion, the newspaper said.
For Airtel, the deal will allow it to add to its existing 4G spectrum, albeit limited in scale, amid growing competition from Indian newcomer Reliance Jio Infocomm.
Up until now, Telenor India mainly operated as a 2G player and only launched 4G services in 27 towns.
In total, the company has a presence in six regions with 53 million subscribers.