DoT today issued a notification which finally gave a green flag to the Telenor–Bharti Airtel merger. After this move, the biggest telco in the country, Bharti Airtel will acquire all licenses owned by Telenor. After the approval of this notification from the Telecom Department Airtel is ready to take over all the licenses of Telenor as well as its liabilities. The notification which the DoT issued on Monday read “The present merger is taken on record without prejudice to the rights, contentions, remedies and steps which may be taken by the department, in pursuance of any subsequent orders of any orders, judgements and decisions of Hon’ble courts and tribunals in related pending matters.”
Previously, The DoT had pleaded in court that Bharti Airtel should furnish a bank guarantee of Rs 1,499 crore which would become the basis of the deal for the buyout of Telenor. However, last week the matter was pulled up to the bench in Supreme Court where the bench decided to go against it and established that no such bank guarantee would be required on Airtel’s part for the deal to go through.
DoT had pleaded in court against the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) in the apex court. The apex court, however, decided to go the other way and cleared the path for Norway based Telenor buyout to go through unhindered without a Bank guarantee.
This buyout of Telenor is supposedly done to help the current largest telco of the country to bridge the gap between the subscriber share and revenue share which it would have after the merger of Idea Cellular and Vodafone India. Apart from acquiring Telenor in a no-cash deal, the company will also become responsible for its standing leftover spectrum payments totalling to Rs 1,650 crore.
The DoT was asking for a bank guarantee from Airtel which accounted for Rs 1,499 crore in lieu of one-time charges for spectrum (OTSC) allocated to the carrier without auctions, along with over Rs 200 crore for deferred payment for airwaves owed by Telenor. Airtel has knocked on TDSAT’s door after receiving the demand of OTSC from DoT stating the reason that the issue of OTSC still stood in court. It is also noteworthy that Airtel has already paid the Rs 200 crore due on Telenor India’s airwaves.
Before getting approval from the DoT the merger was already approved by The Competition Commission of India, Securities & Exchange Board of India, the stock exchanges and National Company Law Tribunal. As a part of this merger, Airtel will now get hold of Telenor’s 40 million subscribers and 4G airwaves in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh (East and West) and Assam as of January. The deal will also cover the takeover of operational contracts and tower leases. However, Telenor still hasn’t started its operations in Assam.