The move follows the decision of the Supreme Court last week where it quashed the telecom department's bid to make Bharti Airtel furnish a bank guarantee of Rs 1,499 crore as a pre-condition to approving the mobile phone operator's buyout of TelenorIndia, paving the way for the deal to go through.
The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) on Monday approved the merger of Bharti Airtel with the Indian unit of Norwegian telecom major Telenor India, a notice said here. Airtel plans to step up investments and aggressively expand its high speed data network across the country over the coming year as part of Project Leap, its network transformation program. The guarantee included Rs 1,499 crore for one-time spectrum charge for the radiowaves allocated to Airtel without auction, and over Rs 200 crore for spectrum payment which Telenor has to make. According to the terms & agreement of the merger agreement, it is likely that Airtel will acquire Telenor's Indian business operations across states such as Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh (West), Bihar, Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Uttar Pradesh (East).
"We welcome all Telenor customers to the Airtel family and look forward to delighting them with best-in-class products".
Gopal Vittal, Airtel's managing director and chief executive (India & South Asia) said, "The acquisition consolidates our market leadership, further strengthens our network portfolio in key markets and will add to shareholder value. I would like to thank the Telenor India team for their relentless and unwavering efforts over the years", Telenor Group CEO Sigve Brekke said.
The acquisition will see the Airtel boost both its subscriber base and - significantly - its spectrum holding.
Addressing this speculation, a spokesperson said: "Airtel has already on-boarded 700 employees from Telenor India". Post-merger, Bharti will have a revenue market share of 32.3 per cent, subscriber market share of 29 per cent and its total spectrum holdings across all bands will increase to 979.45 MHz.
With the completion of this transaction, Airtel's total mobile customer base in India now stands at over 330 million and now telco will add 5 MHz to 7.2 MHz of Telenor's spectrum (1800 band) in each of the seven circles.
But the court has dismissed the petition and instructed the department to approve the merger. Airtel is aiming to compete more effectively against the newcomer and its established rivals, including Vodafone India and Idea Cellular, which are now in the process of merging to create a new market leader. Further, Reliance Jio has also agreed to buy wireless assets of Reliance Communications while Aircel has filed for bankruptcy.
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