MUMBAI (Reuters) - Indian mobile masts operator Bharti Infratel Ltd will consider buying the rest of Indus Towers, it said on Monday, as its two partners in the joint venture look to sell their stakes as part of their merger deal.
Indus Towers, the biggest Indian mast operator with nearly 123,000 towers, is owned 42 percent each by Bharti Infratel and Vodafone’s Indian unit. Third-ranked mobile carrier Idea Cellular along with its associate owns the remainder.
Vodafone India and Idea, which are combining their operations to create the biggest Indian phone carrier, have said they will look at selling their stake in Indus, and also dispose of other tower assets they own to help cut debt in the merged company.
In a stock exchange filing on Monday, Bharti Infratel said its board had decided to “explore and evaluate (the) acquisition of (a) stake in one or more tranches in Indus Towers Ltd with the aim of making it a subsidiary or wholly-owned subsidiary” of the company.
It did not give further details.
Private equity firm KKR & Co LP and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) in March agreed to buy just over a 10 percent stake in Bharti Infratel, which is majority owned by biggest Indian telecoms carrier Bharti Airtel.
The Economic Times newspaper reported this month that a consortium led by KKR was eyeing both Indus Towers and Bharti Infratel, and that as a first step of that deal Bharti Infratel would buy all or most of the other partners’ holdings in Indus.
Separately, Bharti Infratel on Monday reported a 17 percent drop in second-quarter profit to 6.38 billion rupees, missing analysts’ estimate of 7.41 billion rupees.
($1 = 64.8375 Indian rupees)
Reporting by Abhirup Roy, Devidutta Tripathy and Tanvi Mehta; Editing by Mark Potter