Telenor announced an agreement to sell its Indian operations to Bharti Airtel, in a deal that will see the Norwegian operator exit the country.
In a statement, Telenor confirmed a definitive agreement with Airtel, giving the current Indian market leader full ownership of its Indian operations, following talks between the two companies which began in January. Financial details remain undisclosed.
The writing had arguably on the wall for Telenor in India after it decided not to enter into the country’s 4G auction in October, which it said was due to high prices. The decision further fuelled rumours Telenor was seeking an exit, which originated in April 2016. It entered the country in 2008.
Telenor CEO Sigve Brekke said in a statement the decision to exit India “had not been taken lightly”.
“After thorough consideration, it is our view that the significant investments needed to secure Telenor India’s future business on a standalone basis would not have given an acceptable level of return,” he explained.
Telenor India is a relatively small player in the Indian market, but it will give Airtel a boost in spectrum, licences and overall operations as the latter attempts to combat increasing competition from newcomer Jio, and the country’s other operators.
Telenor India has a customer base of 44 million, and it will continue to operate as normal until the transaction completes.
Airtel’s Gopal Vittal,MD and CEO of India and South East Asia, said the deal underlines the company’s commitment “to lead India’s digital revolution”.
“On completion, the proposed acquisition will undergo seamless integration, both on the customer as well as the network side, and further strengthen our market position considerably in several key circles.”
The transaction will be subject to regulatory approval, and is expected to close in 12 months.