The Competition Commission of India has given the green light to Bharti Airtel’s acquisition of Tata Sons’ consumer mobile operations.
Market leader Airtel announced in October that it planned to fold Tata Teleservices and Tata Teleservices Maharashtra into its operations. While the deal has cleared this regulatory hurdle, it still requires approval from India’s stock exchanges and the telecoms department, National Company Law Tribunal, and Securities and Exchange Board.
If the merger goes ahead, then Airtel will gain 42 million subscribers from Tata Teleservices – which covers “the bulk of India’s population” with operations in 19 telecom circles in India - along with an increased spectrum holding and access to Tata’s fibre network. Tata has around INR90 billion ($1.4 billion) to INR100 billion worth of deferred payments on its spectrum holding, and as part of the deal Airtel will take over around 20% of this amount.
Airtel’s acquisition of Tata’s mobile units is part of a spate of consolidation prompted by Reliance Jio’s entry into the market in September 2016. With ten operators currently active in the market, several mergers are underway. Airtel is acquiring Telenor India, while number two Vodafone India is merging with number three Idea Cellular to become the country’s new market leader.
Earlier this year, Bharti Enterprises held talks with Tata Group concerning a potential “mega-merger” of their telecoms, overseas cable, enterprise services and TV businesses, but this fell through in August, with Bharti opting to see through its acquisition of Telenor India and sell off some of its holding in its tower unit, Bharti Infratel.