Brookfield, 2 Others Bid for Voda Towers
It’s likely that winning bidder may also get access to 9k Idea towers
Baiju Kalesh & Sneha Shah
Mumbai: Global alternative asset management fund Brookfield, American Tower Corp (ATC) and local infrastructure fund IDFC Project Equity Infra have separately bid for the 11,000 individual towers of Vodafone India, valued at $600 million, two people with direct knowledge of the development told ET. “The bids were submitted recently and the company will enter into an exclusivity agreement with one of the bidders,” said one of the two persons quoted above.
“Ahead of their proposed merger, the two companies (Vodafone India and Idea Cellular) want to sell their tower assets as the merged entity will be assetlight in nature,” said a second person quoted above.
While Vodafone India has 11,000 towers, Kumar Mangalam Birla-owned Idea Cellular has about 9,000 towers. Morgan Stanley is advising Vodafone and Bank of America Merrill Lynch is the banker to Idea.
Both parties have earlier said they intended to sell their standalone tower assets and stakes in Indus, the world’s largest telecom towers company, before the completion of the broader deal. The merger, the two companies believe, should help reduce debt in the combined entity of about ₹ 1.07 lakh crore.
In March this year, India’s second-largest mobile telephone company Vodafone India decided to merge with the thirdlargest telco Idea Cellular to take on the Reliance Group’s new telecom push through Reliance Jio Infocomm.
The merger, which received the approval from antitrust regulator Competition Commission of India, will create the country’s largest mobile telephony company by subscribers.
“The winning bidder for Vodafone’s tower assets will get access to the 9,000 towers of Idea Cellular and the first right of refusal,” another person involved in the deal said. “Vodafone’s tower assets are being valued at around $600 million.”
This deal does not include Vodafone’s 24% in Indus, which operates 122,000 towers.
Bharti Infratel owns 42% stake in Indus Towers, and the rest is owned by Idea Cellular and private equity fund Providence.
Emailed queries to the spokespersons of Vodafone India, Brookfield, ATC, and IDFC did not elicit any response.
Mobile companies have been trying to monetise infrastructure assets to reduce heavy debt. “It is not a core business at all for telcos….most telcos don’t own towers at all,” said a senior official of a mobile telephony company, when asked about monetising the tower assets.