Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Group could divest part of their holdings in Indus Tower ahead of its merger with Bharti Infratel.
Each operator group holds a 42% stake in the joint venture, but the Economic Times reported that the companies are in discussions with private-equity firm KKR that could see them reduce their holdings in the merged company.
If a deal is reached with KKR, Bharti would reduce its holding to 37.2% and Vodafone to 29.4%. The operators plan to reduce their respective holdings in the merged unit to 13% each via deals with both KKR and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB).
KKR could obtain a holding of around 25%-32% in the merged company, while CPPIB would become one of several minority shareholders. Collectively, the two firms hold more than 10% of Bharti Infratel.
Announced in April last year, the merger between Indus Towers and Bharti Infratel will create India’s largest tower firm, valued at between $12-13 billion. The proposal is expected to be cleared next month.
Both Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel are looking to reduce their debt, and have stated that they will divest assets to this end. The former’s 11% stake in Indus Towers is worth an estimated INR50 billion ($719 million).