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Big deals happening in telecom towers

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MUMBAI: Valuation in the business of telecom towers has averaged out over the past decade when the sector witnessed a battery of PE firms negotiate deals in India. There have been, over the past year, a few large deals in the sector.

American private equity firm Providence, specialising in media, telecom, and technology investments, is reportedly exchanging its holding in Aditya Birla Telecom Ltd (ABTL) with a 4.8% stake in Indus Towers Ltd. The planned potential deal is expected to be a stock swap for Providence.

The stake for Providence may be worth around Rs 3,000 crore according to estimates in the backdrop of recent deals in the telecom tower space in India.

VCCircle has reported that the country’s largest telecom tower firm Indus Towers is a three-way joint venture with Bharti Infratel Ltd (42%), Vodafone India (42%) and ABTL (16%). Providence Equity Partners owns compulsory convertible preference shares of ABTL that give it beneficial stake of around 30% in the privately held firm.

Indus is an independently managed company offering passive infrastructure services to all telecom operators and broadband service providers. It operates in 15 of India’s 22 telecom service areas including Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and states in southern, northern and western regions. As of 31 March 2016, it operated 119,881 towers with 270,006 co-locations.

The Economic Times, earlier this month, reported that the Aditya Birla Group was looking at restructuring its towers venture that could involve Providence swapping shares of ABTL with a 5% stake in Indus. It reported that the group was seeking to sell a large stake in its captive tower business under Idea Cellular, and may merge that arm with ABTL, and then bring down its equity in the merged entity.

Reliance Communications recently signed term sheet with Brookfield Infrastructure Group for part-sale of its telecom tower business. RCom is selling 51% stake in tower unit for Rs 11,000 crore. The deal involving 45,000 mobile towers will facilitate RCom to lessen debt burden.Reliance Communications has a net debt of Rs. 42,000 crores as of end-June, which it expects to cut by Rs. 20,000 crore. Reliance had been looking to sell its mobile towers business, and had expected to seal a deal by October, CEO Gurdeep Singh had said earlier.

American Tower Corporation, a year ago, purchased a 51% stake in telecom tower firm Viom Networks for Rs 7,635 crore. Co-promoted by Tata Group and the Kanoria family of SREI Infrastructure, Viom had private investors, some of whom had backed the Kanorias's Quippo Telecom Infrastructure.

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