Lenders to Aircel, the seventh-largest operator in India, are considering “pre-emptive action” to protect their interests, according to Economic Times, with options including a possible merger with Tata Teleservices or a cash injection from majority owner Maxis.
The paper said that Aircel has initiated “informal talks” with its creditors with regard to a debt restructure, as otherwise it would find it increasingly difficult to service its debt. It was noted that the company has not defaulted on any payments so far.
Earlier this year it was reported that Aircel had been in talks with Russia’s Sistema over a potential tie-up, as Sistema’s Indian unit faced an uncertain future after it became caught up in the 2G licencing furore.
However, after the Indian government cut the reserve price for the spectrum Aircel was looking to acquire, the need to tie-up with another operator became less attractive than acquiring new permits on its own.
The possibility of an alliance with Tata Teleservices is apparently being driven by the State Bank of India, although the report describes them as “somewhat unlikely partners”. This is not helped by Aircel’s existing debt burned, and perceived limits to the profit potential of a combined unit.
Tata Teleservices had previously been linked with an alliance with the Indian unit of Telenor, although this is believed to have fallen through.
According to reports mid-2012, Maxis, which owns 74 per cent of Aircel, had said it sees itself as a long-term player in India, but that it would listen to offers “in the wake of regulatory and policy uncertainty”.
There was a probe into the sale of the Aircel stake to the Malaysian company in 2006.