In the biggest consolidation deal in the telecom sector, Reliance Communications Ltd of the Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group has agreed to merge its mobile phone services business with smaller rival Aircel. The RCom-Aircel combination will create a telecom operator ranked fourth by customer base and revenues and number three operator by revenues in 12 important circles.
RCom and Maxis Communications Berhad (MCB) of Malaysia, which owns Aircel, will hold 50 per cent each in the merged entity with equal representation on the board and committees. The merged company will be one of India’s largest private sector companies, with an asset base of over Rs 65,000 crore and net worth of Rs 35,000 crore ($5.2 billion).
The entity will enjoy substantial benefits of scale driving significant revenue growth, and capex and opex synergies with a net present value (NPV) of Rs 20,000 crore ($3 billion). The company will be managed by an independent professional team under the supervision of the board, RCom and MCB said.
RCom shares rose by 2.72 per cent to Rs 51.05 on the BSE on Wednesday.
After completion of the merger in 2017, RCom’s overall debt will reduce by Rs 20,000 crore or over 40 per cent of its debt, and Aircel’s debt will reduce by Rs 4,000 crore. However, RCom will continue to own and operate its high growth businesses in the domestic and global space, data centres, optic fibre and related telecom infrastructure, besides owning valuable real estate.
The entity will have the second-largest spectrum holding amongst all operators, aggregating 448 MHz across the 850, 900, 1800 and 2100 MHz bands, and will enjoy enhanced business continuity through extended validity of spectrum holdings till 2033-35.
Anil D Ambani, chairman, Reliance ADAG, said: “Together with our partners MCB, we are delighted to have taken the lead in consolidation of the Indian telecom sector, first, with RCOM’s acquisition of the wireless business of SSTL (Sistema/MTS), and now, with the combination of our business with Aircel in a 50:50 joint venture with MCB.”
“We expect this combination to create substantial long term value for shareholders of both, RCOM and MCB, given the benefits of the wide-ranging spectrum portfolio and significant revenue and cost synergies,” Ambani said.
Since acquiring Aircel in 2006, MCB has invested in excess of Rs 35,000 crore in Aircel, making this one of the largest foreign investments into India, not only in the telecom industry but across all sectors. “The magnitude of this investment, and the further equity commitment in support of this deal, are underpinned by MCB’s belief in the long term growth potential of both India and the Indian telecom sector,” MCB said in a statement.
Aircel is a pan-India 2G operator with 3G spectrum in 13 circles and is credited with the fastest 3G roll-out ever in the Indian telecom space. RCom has a customer base of over 107 million, including over 2.6 million individual overseas retail customers.