ATC acquiring Indian tower units from Vodafone and Idea for $1.2 billion

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Vodafone India and Idea Cellular on 13 November separately agreed to sell their respective standalone tower businesses in India to ATC Telecom Infrastructure Private Limited (formerly Viom) for an aggregate enterprise value of Rs 7,850 crore ($1.2 billion), a company statement said.

Vodafone will get about Rs. 3,850 crore while Idea Cellular will get its share of Rs. 4,000 crore from the transaction - both after adjustments for debt and cash.

The two companies have also said they will look at selling their holdings in Indus, the country's biggest mobile masts operator with 123,000 towers, which is jointly owned with an affiliate of rival network operator Bharti Airtel. The deal is expected to close in 2018. "The parties will work together to further the expansion of high speed mobile networks in India", the statement added.

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After completion of the proposed merger of Vodafone India and Idea Cellular, about 6,300 co-located tenancies of the two operators on the combined standalone tower businesses will collapse into single tenancies over two years without exit penalties.

Idea and Vodafone's Indian unit are now merging in a move that will see them overtake Airtel as India's largest telecoms operator with more than 400 million subscribers.

Canada's Brookfield, which called off talks to buy a stake in struggling Indian network operator Reliance Communications masts arm, has said it is open to acquiring the business under revised terms, while it looks at other potential opportunities in the India.

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The numbers have come in the backdrop of pressure easing out on the industry after Reliance Jio started charging customers in April; it has increased tariffs thrice since then, after offering services for free for nearly six months.

Idea, India's No. 3 wireless carrier posted a loss of 11.07 billion rupees ($169.45 million) in the quarter ended September 30, compared with a profit of 915 million rupees a year earlier. However, it said the company's service revenue Arpu (average revenue per user) took a beating due to stiff price competition and it now stands at Rs146 per user.

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