Vodafone plans to invest $3 billion into India operations

Vodafone is planning an up to $3-billion (Rs 20,100-crore) equity infusion in its India unit to replace debt as competition intensifies with the entry of Reliance Jio Infocomm and bidding for spectrum gets underway in less than a month. 

Europe’s largest mobile phone operator is also believed to be reviewing the timelines for Vodafone India’s initial public offering, wary of value erosion due to a tariff war unleashed by Jio, people familiar with the matter said. “Overseas market conditions make it favourable to replace the debt here with equity as the return on equity is higher here and it will cut the debt servicing costs,” one of the people said. Vodafone India’s standalone net debt for 2015-16 was about Rs 81,500 crore, according to the company.

Vodafone, based in England, declined to comment specifically on the equity infusion and debt replacement plan, but said the company has consistently invested in India and is today the largest foreign direct investor in the country. It added there’s no change in its IPO timetable. Analysts said Vodafone India may be the most aggressive bidder in the upcoming auction and some expect it to spend as much as $2 billion on acquiring airwaves. India’s second-ranked telco has 4G spectrum in nine of the country’s 22 circles, with operations in eight, lagging behind Jio and market leader Bharti Airtel’s pan-India holdings. India is set to sell spectrum, valued at Rs 5.6 lakh crore at the reserve price, starting October 1, including airwaves in the 4G and 3G bands. Besides 4G, analysts said Vodafone may buy 3G airwaves to plug coverage gaps.

Apart from the auctions, Vodafone, along with Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular, is staring at a tariff war brought about by the launch of Jio’s 4G services earlier this month, offering free voice for life and data at about a fifth of the market rates. Vodafone India’s IPO may become a casualty of Jio’s launch and the consequent market disruption. “The company is evaluating if it should further push back its IPO as the market conditions are bleak for the next few months,” one of the people told ET. Vodafone, though, said its India unit’s IPO plans remain on track. “We continue to prepare for a potential IPO and there has been no change in our timetable,” Vodafone said in an emailed response to an ET query. It didn’t spell out a timeline for the IPO. Investors have already responded to Jio’s entry.

Leading private telcos in India add 2.08 mn subscribers in July

Leading Indian GSM telecom operators, Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular and Telenor, added 2.08 million subscribers in July, as per data released by industry body COAI. (Economic Times)

“The GSM Subscriber increased by 2.08 million in July. Total number of GSM Subscriber base as of July 2016 reached 779.05 million,” as per data of Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI).

Telecom major Bharti Airtel led the growth by adding 1.07 million net new subscribers taking its total mobile customer base to 256.81 million at the end of July. The firm was followed by Telenor which added 0.4 million customers, Vodafone 0.33 million and Idea added 0.26 million new customers.

The data released by the industry body did not include latest subscriber number of staterun public sector units MTNL and BSNL. Other GSM players, Tata Teleservices, Reliance Communications and Quadrant, also do not share their subscriber numbers with COAI as they are not its members.

UP East remained the top telecom circle with 71.32 million GSM subscribers and Kerala topped the chart in terms of maximum subscriber additions in July.

India to have the biggest spectrum sale from September 29

The Indian government will conduct the country’s biggest spectrum sale from September 29 as mobile frequencies will be sold across seven bands. The move is expected to lead to an improvement in telecom services and address nagging issues such as call drops and poor broadband speeds.(IndiaTimesNews)

Telecom secretary J S Deepak released the notice inviting applications (NIAs) and said a total of 2,355 MHz of spectrum will be put for auction that has the potential to raise as much as Rs 5.6 lakh crore ($86k Million), if all the airwaves are sold at the reserve price. 

The government had sold spectrum worth Rs 1.1 lakh crore ($17k Million) in the previous auction, which closed in March last year. In this round, the government is looking for a record haul, though top operators such as Bharti Airtel and Vodafone have complained that reserve prices are “extremely high” in the 700-MHz band where airwaves are being sold for the first time ever.