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Saturday, September 19, 2020

Amazon, Verizon may invest over $4 billion in Vodafone Idea: Report

Vodafone Idea, a joint venture between Britain's Vodafone Group Plc and India's Idea Cellular, still owes roughly 500 billion rupees ($6.8 billion) to the Indian government. It is among India's top three telecom firms by subscribers.

By: Reuters | Bengaluru | September 3, 2020 1:53:49 pm
Advertisements for Vodafone India Ltd. and Idea Cellular Ltd. are displayed on a street in Mumbai, India, on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011.(Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

US wireless carrier Verizon Communications Inc and Amazon.com Inc may invest more than $4 billion for a stake in India’s Vodafone Idea Ltd, the Mint newspaper reported on Thursday, sending shares in the struggling Indian telecom firm up as much as 14%.

The news comes two days after India’s Supreme Court ruled that mobile carriers must settle government dues within 10 years, giving Vodafone Idea some reprieve in a case that it had said could affect its ability to continue as a going concern.

Vodafone Idea, a joint venture between Britain’s Vodafone Group Plc and India’s Idea Cellular, still owes roughly 500 billion rupees ($6.8 billion) to the Indian government. It is among India’s top three telecom firms by subscribers.

Vodafone Idea’s stake-sale talks had been paused pending the court ruling, but Amazon and Verizon are now set to resume discussions, Mint reported, citing two unnamed people aware of the negotiations.

Amazon and Verizon did not return emails seeking comment outside regular US business hours.

Shares in Vodafone Idea were up 9.6% at 10.85 rupees by 0645 GMT.

The Financial Times reported in May that Alphabet Inc’s Google was considering buying a roughly 5% stake in Vodafone Idea. Reuters reported in June that Amazon was in talks to buy a stake in Vodafone Idea’s Indian rival Bharti Airtel.

Separately on Thursday, Indian news channel CNBC-TV 18 reported that Vodafone Idea could “take stock” of a sale of its optic fibre business at a Friday board meeting scheduled to consider a fundraising plan.

Canada’s Brookfield Asset Management Inc and private equity group KKR were contenders for the business, with Brookfield seen as the frontrunner, CNBC-TV 18 said.

Vodafone Idea declined to comment on “speculation” when contacted by Reuters. Representatives for Brookfield and KKR did not immediately return Reuters emails seeking comment.

($1 = 73.1900 Indian rupees)

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