M&A activity in India’s mobile market is imminent as many operators are loss-making and their options are narrowing, said Marten Pieters, managing director and chief executive of Vodafone India, in an interview with Economic Times.
“There are currently about a dozen players, with many of them making losses,” said Pieters, although he declined to confirm that Vodafone itself would be a mover in the consolidation process.
Pieters’ comments reflect a wider mood in the country’s mobile market.
In recent months, a number of takeovers of smaller rivals by Indian’s larger players have been mooted, including a possible tie-up of Vodafone and Tata Teleservices.
And in February, Bharti Airtel agreed to buy smaller Loop Mobile, subject to regulatory clearance.
Evidence of who are likely to be the key consolidators came in the recent spectrum auctions where Vodafone, Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular and newcomer Reliance Jio Infocomm were the big winners.
Pieters also pointed to a more favourable regulatory regime as an aid to M&A. The country has new takeover rules alongside forthcoming guidelines on spectrum trading and sharing.
New M&A rules raise the subscriber and revenue market share limit on a merged entity from 35 per cent to 50 per cent, as well as allowing a one-year timeframe for operators to get in line with that stipulation.
The country’s Department of Telecommunications has still to clear spectrum trading rules put forward by the regulator in late January. And the department is still working on sharing guidelines. Both are expected to be announced after the country’s forthcoming general elections.