India's Idea Cellular posts quarterly loss; to sell tower unit

That Idea Cellular has lost ground vis-à-vis Bharti Airtel both in terms of subscriber  revenue market share as well as share of profits shows that the constraints on capex has hurt

Vodafone India and Idea Cellular on Monday said they will sell their tower assets to America Tower Corp (ATC) for a total consideration of Rs 7,850 crore.

By the end of the period, Vodafone India's operating cash flow was at Rs 1543 crore and the company's capex investment stood at Rs 2915 crore.

The standalone tower businesses of Vodafone India and Idea Cellular are pan-Indian passive telecom infrastructure businesses, comprising a combined portfolio of approximately 20,000 towers with a combined tenancy ratio of 1.65x as of 30 June 2017. "We remain committed to playing our due role in enabling Digital India by fulfilling the evolving needs of increasing volumes, speed and connectivity solutions from both retail and enterprise customers", Sunil Sood, managing director and chief executive, said in a statement on Tuesday.

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Idea will sell its entire stake in Idea Cellular Infrastructure Services Limited and Vodafone India will sell a business undertaking to ATC TIPL.

The deal, which is expected to be completed in the first half of 2018, will consolidate ATC's position as the second-largest telecom tower company with about 80,000 towers. This transaction follows the announcement in March by Vodafone India and Idea to sell their standalone tower businesses to strengthen the balance sheet of the combined business.

Idea and Vodafone Group's India unit are on track to merge operations in a deal valued at $23 billion, possibly creating the country's biggest telecom player.

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Jio's arrival has sparked a rush to market consolidation as competitors try to match the deep pockets of Jio, which is backed by Ambani's hugely wealthy energy-to-chemicals conglomerate Reliance Industries.

Idea, India's No. 3 wireless carrier posted a loss of 11.07 billion rupees ($169.45 million) in the quarter ended September 30, compared with a profit of 915 million rupees a year earlier. The average revenue per user declined to Rs 146 from Rs 186 past year following "stiff price competition", the company said.

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