Indian operators Reliance Communications and Aircel have extended the exclusivity period of their merger discussions.
The two operators began talks regarding a potential merger in December, and have now twice extended the negotiations, citing “substantial progress”. Having originally added a further 60 days onto the deadline in March, they have now extended talks by a further 30 days to 22nd June.
If a deal is reached, RCom and Aircel’s majority owner Maxis would each take 50% of the resulting entity, which would have 188 million mobile connections. This would place it ahead of third-placed Idea Cellular, which has around 174 million connections.
Currently RCom is the fourth largest operator in India, while Aircel is significantly smaller. The market is lead by Bharti Airtel, which has around 250 million connections, and Vodafone India takes second place with 197 million.
Last year, RCom agreed to acquire Sistema Shyam Teleservices for a total sum of around $690 million, providing it with a further 9 million subscribers and an annual revenue of around INR15 billion ($229 million).
While the merger talks were underway in April, Aircel separately struck a deal to sell 4G spectrum to Airtel across eight service areas for INR35 billion ($525 million), allowing it to wipe around INR40 billion from its INR180 billion debt before the merger goes ahead.