Telecom sector’s serial purchaser Airtel now interested in buying RCom’s spectrum

In a bid to take on competition in a consolidating market, the Sunil Mittal-led company has been buying stressed assets in the telecom sector, and spectrum.

Bharti Airtel has said that it is interested in buying selected spectrum and some equipment of Reliance Communications (RCom), according to a report by The Economic Times.

Lenders are currently in the process of selling RCom’s assets in a bid to recover some portions of the roughly Rs 45,000-crore debt.

When asked about Airtel’s interest in RCom’s assets that are being put for sale by lender, a company spokesperson for Bharti Airtel told the newspaper, “We have expressed our interest only in buying select spectrum and some equipment.”

According to the report, Airtelcould be contesting Reliance Jio for the 850 megahertz (MHz) band spectrum which is considered to be highly efficient for 4G services. The proceeds of the sale will be going to the lenders as debt recovery.

Other companies in the sector, tower providers Indus, Bharti Infratel and Brookfield are also considered to be interested in purchasing RCom’s towers.

In a bid to improve its spectrum holdings to taking on Reliance Jio and Vodafone-Idea Cellular, in what has become a highly competitive market, the Sunil Mittal-led company has been buying stressed assets in the telecom sector, and spectrum.

Here are some of Airtel’s recent acquisitions:

Telenor

In February this year, Airtel bought Telenor’s ailing Indian subsidiary, Telenor India. According to the deal, Airtel took over Telenor India’s liabilities related to licence fees and lease obligations for mobile towers.

The deal which gave Airtel 44 million additional users, did not involve any cash payment to Telenor. It also accessed Telenor India’s 43.4 MHz spectrum in the 1,800 MHz band.

Aircel’s 4G spectrum

In April 2016, Airtel entered into an Rs 30,000-crore-agreement with debt-ridden Aircel to take over its 2,300 MHz spectrum band across eight circles.

Tata Teleservices

In October, the company announced merger of its mobile operations with struggling Tata Teleservices. According to the deal, Airtel would acquire Tata’s consumer mobile business in 19 circles.

The merger was done on debt-free, cash-free basis. The deal also gave Airtel access to Tata’s 1,800, 2,100 and 850 MHz bands spectrum, all widely used for 4G.

Tikona

In September this year, Airtel announced that it had fully acquired Tikona Digital Network’s share capital. Earlier, the company had announced a plan to purchase Tikona’s 4G airwaves for Rs 1,600 crore.

The acquisition gave the Sunil Mittal-led telecom company access Tikona’s 4G spectrum in five circles, namely Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Eastern Uttar Pradesh, Western Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan.

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