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Vodafone Idea rebrands in fight for India's telecom market share

A hotel employee clears a table after Vodafone Group and Idea Cellular news conference in Mumbai, India March 20, 2017. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/Files

NEW DELHI/BENGALURU (Reuters) - Debt-ridden Vodafone Idea Ltd VODA.NS said on Monday it is rebranding itself, as the company, which has been losing customers, looks to change its image three years after announcing the merger of two of India's biggest telecom service providers.

The company’s shares, which rose 10% in morning trade, were up 3.3% at 0750 GMT.

The loss-making telecom carrier on Friday approved fundraising of up to 250 billion rupees at a time it owes roughly 500 billion rupees ($6.81 billion) in dues to the government. The dues, according to an Indian Supreme Court order, will have to be paid over a ten-year period.

Vodafone Idea, a joint venture between Britain's Vodafone Group VOD.L and India's Idea Cellular, said it will go by the brand name "Vi".

“Vi’s focus will be to deliver ... a superior network experience, better customer service and leading products and services,” Vodafone Group Chief Executive Officer Nick Read said.

On a media call before the announcement, Vodafone Idea CEO Ravinder Takkar said the company would make its next payment of government dues on March 2022, and was contemplating raising tariffs.

Telecom carriers in the country have already raised some subscription tariffs as they look for ways to pay down government levies.

Vodafone Idea lost 4.7 million customers in May alone, while market leader Reliance Jio added 3.7 million. The Indian unit of Vodafone had gross debt of 1.19 trillion Indian rupees as of June end.

A newspaper report last week said Verizon Communications Inc VZ.N and Amazon.com Inc AMZN.O may invest more than $4 billion for a stake in Vodafone Idea, but the telecom company said on Thursday its board had no investment proposal to consider from them.

Reporting by Sanklap Phartiyal in New Delhi, Euan Rocha in Mumbai, Nivedita Bhattacharjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta

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