Bharti Airtel announced on Friday that it has agreed to purchase Vodafone’s 4.7 percent ownership in Indus Towers on the condition that the revenues be used to invest in Vodafone Idea and pay off the mobile tower company’s debts.
Debt-ridden Vodafone Idea (VIL) has been unable to pay its debts to Indus Towers, and both the company and its promoter, Vodafone, have presented a payment plan to clear the unpaid amount by July 15.
In the interim, VIL has agreed to pay Indus Towers a minimum amount each month. “Bharti Airtel has…entered into an agreement with Vodafone to purchase a 4.7 percent equity interest in Indus Towers on the principal condition that the amount paid be inducted by Vodafone as fresh equity in Vodafone Idea Limited (VIL) and simultaneously remitted to Indus Towers to clear VIL’s outstanding dues,” according to a statement from Airtel.
On Thursday, Vodafone’s group firm Euro Pacific Securities sold a 2.36 percent stake in Indus Towers in a bulk transaction at an average price of Rs 226.84 per share to an unknown buyer for Rs 1,441.62 crore on the NSE. Airtel stated that the share would be purchased at a competitive price, which would represent a significant discount over what is generally offered for such large block purchases.
Moreover, Airtel is protected by a capped price that is lower than the price for the block of Indus shares sold by Vodafone on February 24, 2022. This will add value to Airtel’s existing significant stake in Indus Towers while also protecting its value.
“Any such acquisition shall only be done when such proceeds are confirmed to be utilised by Vodafone to infuse as equity into VIL including any regulatory or shareholders’ approval being fully obtained,” Airtel said.
The Sunil Bharti Mittal-led company said the deal ensures the mobile tower company’s continued strong provision of services, protects and enhances Airtel’s value in Indus Towers while allowing it to receive large dividends, and paves the way for Indus Towers’ subsequent financial consolidation into Airtel. Vodafone currently owns roughly 28% of Indus Towers, while Bharti Airtel owns close to 42%.
Airtel is committed to exploring options for monetizing this valuable asset when the time comes. “By doing so, we will ensure that the tower company is stable and that any new strategic or financial investor or investors may continue to fulfill Airtel’s key needs,” the statement stated.
Bharti Infratel Ltd, originally known as Indus Towers, is a significant provider of passive telecom infrastructure. For multiple mobile carriers, it deploys, owns, and manages telecom towers and communication structures.
With around 1,84,748 telecom towers in its portfolio, the company is one of the country’s leading tower infrastructure suppliers, with a presence in all 22 telecom circles. It serves India’s entire wireless telecommunications service provider community.
Indus Towers’ consolidated profit increased by around 16 per cent to Rs 1,570.8 crore in the three months ended December 2021, while revenues increased by Rs 6,927 crore.
Last year, the government gave telecom service providers a boost by approving a massive relief package that included a four-year reprieve from paying statutory dues, permission to share scarce airwaves, a change in the definition of revenue on which levies are paid, and 100% foreign investment through the automatic route.
Telcos were also given the option of converting the income earned during the moratorium period into equity. As a result, debt-ridden Vodafone Idea Ltd chose to pay roughly Rs 16,000 crore in interest through preferential shares. The government will own 35.8% of the company as a result of this deal. The company posted a consolidated loss of Rs 7,230.9 crore in the third quarter ended December 2021, while consolidated revenue from operations fell to Rs 9,717.3 crore.
As of December 31, 2021, Vodafone Idea’s total gross debt, excluding lease liabilities and interest accrued but not due, was Rs 1,98,980 crore. The sum included Rs 1,11,300 crore in deferred spectrum payment commitments, Rs 64,620 crore in AGR liability owed to the government, and Rs 23,060 crore in debt owed to banks and other organizations. On the BSE, Indus Towers’ stock finished at Rs 214.2 per share, up 4.11 per cent.