Voda Rings up Ex-India Head Pieters to Help with Idea Talks
Former CEO to oversee proposed merger and speed up matters
Kolkata: The proposed Vodafone-Idea Cellular merger appears to have gained momentum. UK’s Vodafone Group Plc is said to have brought in Marten Pieters, the former CEO of its Indian arm, to spur the process.
“Marten (Pieters) is in India to oversee the proposed merger of Vodafone India and Idea and speed up matters,” said a person aware of the development. Vodafone Group CEO Vittorio Colao is slated to make an in-house conference call on February 24 to update business heads of the India unit on the progress of the proposed deal.
A Vodafone India spokesperson declined to comment on ET’s queries about the role of Pieters and Colao’s upcoming conference call.
Industry experts expect Colao to make significant announcements on the merger progress and the immediate impact on Vodafone’s India operations.
Pieters, the longest-serving CEO of a telco in India, stepped down on April 1, 2015, after which Sunil Sood assumed charge as managing director. Pieters is currently on Vodafone India’s board.
Pieters’ return to India comes on the heels of Vodafone replacing its India chief operating officer Naveen Chopra with Balesh Sharma, head of Vodafone’s Czech Republic operations, as part of organisational changes made to better tackle competitive pressures triggered by Reliance Jio’s entry. Sharma takes over on April 1. Vodafone Group and Aditya Birla Group said on January 30 they were in talks to merge Vodafone India, excluding its stake in Indus Towers, and Idea in an all-share deal that would create the country’s biggest mobile phone company by users and revenue share. Colao had said the objective was to create a self-funded Indian JV with equal rights to take on Jio.
On Friday, the telecom regulator said it would look into the proposed Vodafone and Idea merger “as and when” issues crop up. “That’s a business decision. I would not like to comment. As and when there is a regulatory issue, I will certainly give advice to the government,” said RS Sharma, chairman of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.
IN THICK OF THINGS: Marten Pieters