Voda Rings up Ex-In­dia Head Pi­eters to Help with Idea Talks

For­mer CEO to over­see pro­posed merger and speed up mat­ters

The Economic Times - - Front Page - Our Bu­reau

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

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