February 18, 2014 / 4:17 AM / 4 years ago

Bharti agrees to acquire smaller rival Loop Mobile

Men make phone calls as they sit on a railing with Bharti Airtel billboards installed on it, along a sidewalk in Kolkata February 1, 2013.Rupak De Chowdhuri/Files

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Bharti Airtel Ltd(BRTI.NS), India's top telecommunications carrier, said on Tuesday it had agreed to acquire smaller rival Loop Mobile - the first merger in the country's crowded telecoms market in nearly six years.

Bharti did not say how much it was paying for the assets of Loop Mobile, which operates only in the financial capital Mumbai. Sources said on Monday that Bharti would pay 3 billion rupees and take on 4 billion rupees of debt held by Loop.

The deal would take Bharti's total customers in Mumbai to more than 7 million, helping it surpass Vodafone (VOD.L) by customer numbers in the city, though its market share by revenue for Mumbai would still lag Vodafone.

Bharti said in a statement the companies were yet to sign a definitive agreement and that the deal was subject to regulatory approval.

Reporting by Devidutta Tripathy; Editing by Edwina Gibbs

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