Vodafone Essar could sell 7,000 towers

Dylan Bushell-Embling
04 Nov 2010

Vodafone Essar may sell 7,000 mobile towers in a transaction that could be worth more than $450 million, according to reports.

The company is shopping a deal around, and has received interest from GTL Infrastructure and Tata Quippo, the EconomicTimessaid, quoting an unnamed industry executive. Vodafone Essar would then presumably lease capacity in those seven circles.

Vodafone wholly owns its towers in seven of India's 22 telecom circles. Analysts have valued these assets at potentially over 20 billion rupees ($452.4 million), but said the deal size depends on the tenancies of the towers.

But a deal is not yet set in stone, with Vodafone Essar also considering merging its standalone tower assets with the ones it jointly owns through Indus Towers, the source said.

Indus Towers is a three-way JV between Vodafone Essar, Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular, which manages towers for the operators in 16 of India's 22 telecom circles.

In exchange for folding its towers into the venture, Vodafone Essar would seek to increase its stake beyond the 42% it currently owns.

With Vodafone facing a bill of at least 40 billion rupees for rolling out 3G services, and having already spent 120 billion rupees to acquire 3G licenses across 12 circles, the funds from a tower sale would be welcome.

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