Vodafone India, Idea complete $23b merger

India's Vodafone India and Idea Cellular have announced they have completed their $23 billion merger into Vodafone Idea Limited.

The combined company has appointed former Vodafone India COO Balesh Sharma as its first CEO. Kumar Mangalam Birla, chairman of the former Idea Cellular's majority owner the Aditya Birla Group, has meanwhile been named chairman of the new company.

With the merger, Vodafone Idea has become India's largest telecoms operator with nearly 408 million customers and a market share of around 35%.

Vodafone and Idea together generated revenue of 585 billion rupees ($8.28 billion) during the 12 months ending in June, The companies also expect to generate around 140 billion rupees in cost and capex synergies.

But the combined company will also be taking on 1.09 trillion rupees in net debt, with more than 80% of this owed to the Indian government due mostly to spectrum related costs.

The Aditya Birla Group is meanwhile in the process of separately buying a 4.8% stake in Vodafone Idea from Vodafone Group. After this transaction closes, Vodafone will own a 45.2% stake in Vodafone Idea, with Aditya Birla Group owning 26%.

Vodafone will also hold a 29.4% stake in the company that will be created through the planned merger between its tower joint venture Indus Towers and Bharti Airtel's tower company Bharti Infratel.

Idea Cellular currently owns 11.15% of Indus Towers, and Vodafone Idea will have the option to monetize this stake on completion of the merger, which is expected in the current financial year.

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