In an interesting turn of events, Tata Group-owned telco Tata Teleservices has entered into an initial round of discussions with Anil Ambani-led Reliance Communication to explore the possibility of joining forces with the upcoming merged RCom-Aircel and MTS entity.
Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio’s entry has resulted triggered intense competition, leading to a new phase of consolidation in the industry. The mergers and acquisitions activity in India has picked up the pace lately following the confirmation of merger talks by India’s number two and number three telecom operators, Vodafone and Idea Cellular.
If the talks between Reliance Group and Tata Group materialises, the combine of RCom-Aircel-MTS-Tata Tele will result in India’s third largest telecom operator after Bharti Airtel and the proposed Vodafone-Idea Cellular combine.
The RCom-Aircel-MTS-Tata Tele combine will have around 260 million subscribers, closing in on Airtel’s 266 million users, as per regulatory data as of December 31. Vodafone and Idea Cellular have 205 million and 190 million subscribers, respectively and their merger will result in India’s leading telco with up to 395 million.
According to Credit Suisse, a RCom-Aircel-MTS-Tata Tele will have revenue market share of over 18% as compared to Airtel’s 31% share and potential 42% (23% and 19%, respectively) for Vodafone-Idea merged entity.
According to an Economic Times report, Reliance Group chairman Anil Ambani has already approached the newly appointed Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran to discuss the matter. A person aware of the development, however, told the publication that nothing has been finalised yet and there are some obstacles such as Tata Tele’s debt of about Rs 30,000 crore.
“The legal issue regarding NTT Docomo’s exit from Tata Tele also needs to be resolved,” the person was quoted as saying.
In the case of a merger, Tata Teleservices may surrender some or all of its 800 MHz airwaves considering that RCom already has its 4G spectrum through sharing tie-up with Reliance Jio.
Tata Tele currently ranks ninth with a subscriber base of roughly 53 million.