Bharti Airtel acquires Tatas' telecom business on debt and cash-free terms

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Sunil Bharti Mittal bought Tata Teleservices bringing over 71 MHz of liberalized spectrum, and this will also add 40 million customers to Bharti Airtel. The new entrant Reliance Jio has fast grown to 130 million customers since its launch previous year.

On Thursday, TTSL announced its plans to sell wireless mobile business to Bharti Airtel. The current employees of TTSL and TTML will be demerged across the CMB business and the EFL (Enterprise and Fixed Line and Broadband) business, and are expected to be moved within the Tata Group at a later date.

The price war has led to major losses for most carriers, and spurred India's banking regulator - the Reserve Bank of India -to ask banks to review their telecoms sector exposure and boost their provisioning for any loans made to the sector.

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The two companies have entered into an understanding to merge the consumer mobile businesses of Tata Teleservices and Tata Teleservices Maharashtra into Bharti Airtel on "a debt-free cash-free basis, except for Bharti Airtel assuming a small portion of the unpaid spectrum liability of Tata's towards the Department of Telecommunication, which is to be paid on deferred basis", Bharti Airtel said in statement released on Thursday.

As per the deal, all customers and assets of Tata CMB will be transferred to Airtel, and it also means that Airtel's current spectrum holdings will get a significant push: addition of 178.5 MHz spectrum (of which 71.3 MHz is liberalized) across the 850, 1800 and 2100 MHz bands. The next biggest merge is when Vodafone merges with Idea making it the most subscribed company in the telecom business. Tata Teleservices was one of the sore spots, guzzling cash while piling on debt.

As of end-March, Tata Teleservices and its unit had combined debt of Rs 34,089 crore ($5.24 billion) excluding sums due to the government for spectrum purchases, according to local ratings agency Crisil, which also said Tata Teleservices' net loss almost doubled in the year to March, to Rs 4,617 crore.

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Goldman Sachs (India) Securities Private Limited is financial adviser to Tata. Tata will retain its stake in Viom and take care of associated liabilities - American Tower Company (ATC) owns 51 per cent stake in Viom while Tata Tele holds 33 per cent and Tata Sons 2 per cent. The Boards of Tata Sons, TTSL and TTML, too, have given their approval. "It will gain additional customers and also spectrum", he added. This would help Airtel in bolstering its air-wave strength as well as narrow the gap between the proposed Vodafone-Idea merger in terms of subscriber as well as revenue market share.

A Bharti Airtel office building is pictured in Gurugram, previously known as Gurgaon, on the outskirts of New Delhi, India April 21, 2016.

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