RCom and SSTL merger on the cards in India

A merger between Indian number four Reliance Communications (RCom) and fellow operator Sistema Shyam Teleservices (SSTL) could be completed within a month.

Discussions regarding the possibility were first held in June, and due diligence for a stock swap is now believed to be complete. The deal is expected to be confirmed following a meeting between the firms’ respective boards. SSTL’s holding will be between 8 and 10%, while RCom will take the remainder.

SSTL provides services as MTS, and has a market share of less than 1% with 8.6 million connections. RCom meanwhile has around 110 million, giving it an 11% share. The firms have are organising the merger to be tax exempt, as this will push back the expiration date for RCom’s licences in 8 telecom circles from 2021 to 2033.

In addition to the merger, RCom recently announced a “strategic partnership” with new operator Reliance Jio Infocomm to augment their respective 4G offerings. The operators have reached an agreement to share and trade 800-850MHz spectrum in a deal that RCom chairman Anil Ambani described as a “virtual consolidation”.

Several of the country’s major operators – including market leaders Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular – are either launching or augmenting their 4G offerings by early 2016. Reliance Jio is aiming to have services available by December.

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