Telecom companies, off late, have looked to mergers to survive. The most recent one is between Bharti Airtel and Tata Teleservices. Let us take a look at the biggest mergers that have taken place in the Indian telecom industry.
Unless you’ve been living under the rock, you would have heard of the merger announcement between Tata Teleservices and Bharti Airtel. It is a win-win situation for both the companies involved. For Airtel, the merger brings with it added revenue market share at virtually no cost. About 40 million customers of Tata Tele customers will directly join the Bharti Airtel network. According to the news website Firstpost.in, “Rs 8,000 crore will be paid by the Tatas while Bharti will pay only Rs 1,500-1,700 crore as spectrum liability.” The customer base of Bharti Airtel is expected to grow by 12-14 percent and cross the 300-million customers' mark.
In 2007, the British telecom company Vodafone completed the acquisition of a 67 percent majority stake in Hutchison Essar, India’s fourth-largest telecom corporation at the time at a cost of USD10.9 billion. Though experts criticized the move by saying Vodafone had overpaid for the acquisition, Vodafone later said the price was worth it as the deal gave it a strong presence in India, the fastest-growing telecom market in the world.
Aditya Birla Group's Idea Cellular acquired Spice Telecom from Modi Wellvest and Telekom Malaysia (TMI, now Axiata) in July 2008. Under the terms of the agreement, Idea got a 40.8 percent stake in Spice Telecom for Rs 2720 crore. The deal gave Idea a crucial spectrum on the 900 MHz band, and also received service licenses held by Spice to enter Punjab and Karnataka telecom circles.
In 2010, Norwegian telecom company Telenor acquired 67.5 percent stake in Unitech Wireless for Rs 6,135 crore. Telenor completed the acquisition process in four stages, the first of which started in 2009. Telenor raised its stake in 2013 to 74 percent after it bought out Telewings Communications' minority stake in the company for 1000 crore rupees. Finally, in 2014 Telenor acquired the entire 100 percent stake in Unitech after buying out the remaining shareholders. The entity later came to be known as Telenor (India) Communications.
In February 2017, Airtel and Telenor signed an agreement for a merger. As per the merger agreement, Airtel took over Telenor India's all seven telecom circles-- Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh (East), Uttar Pradesh (West) and Assam, with the acquisition of its 43.4 MHz spectrum in the 1800 MHz band. The deal augmented Airtel's market share by a few percentage points to make it 35 percent and added 44 million subscribers to its customer base.
In March 2017, Idea and Vodafone came together and decided on a USD 23 billion merger of the two companies. The merger will make it the largest telecom company in India with around 400 million customers (35 percent of customer market share) and 41 percent of the revenue market share. After the completion of the deal in 2018, Vodafone will own 45 percent of the stake whereas Idea will have 26 percent ownership. The remaining 28.9 percent will be held by other shareholders.