Viom Networks eyes RCom's tower business

Our Bureau Mumbai | Updated on November 12, 2017 Published on June 09, 2011


Telecom tower company Viom Networks, or the erstwhile Tata Quippo, has evinced interest in acquiring Reliance Infratel, the towers business of Reliance Communications.

The discussion, still at a preliminary stage, will go ahead only once a formal nod of approval comes from the Tata group, which holds a 51 per cent stake in Viom, a company source familiar with the development said.

Looks at opportunities

On being contacted, Mr Sunil Kanoria, Vice-Chairman of SREI Infrastructure Finance (the other major shareholder in Viom), said: “Time and again we keep looking at different opportunities to expand. However, we have not conducted any ‘due diligence of Reliance Infratel yet'.”

Though SREI Infrastructure is interested in taking the discussions to the next level, the Tatas are yet to take a final call, given RCom's failed attempts in the past to sell its tower assets, the source added.

Last year, RCom was in talks with GTL Infrastructure for a Rs 50,000-crore deal that would have created India's second largest operator of cellphone towers. However, the deal fell through in the final stages late last year.

RCom has been toying with the idea of hiving off its cell-phone towers mainly to reduce its debt burden, which stood at Rs 32,049 crore at the end of March 2011.

Recently, the Anil Ambani-controlled RCom had once again announced that it had received proposals from ‘several interested parties' to acquire Reliance Infratel. The company recently secured a $1.93-billion loan from China Development Bank for refinancing fees paid for 3G spectrum and finance equipment supplies from China.

Pvt equity players

Recent media reports, citing unnamed sources, have said that private equity players TPG Capital, Carlyle, Blackstone and Apax Partners too are keen on buying into Reliance Infratel, which owns nearly 50,000 towers, and 200,000-route km of national optical fibre network.

However, this could not be verified independently.

The tower business in India is dominated by market leader Indus Towers, a three-way joint venture between Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Essar and Idea Cellular, that owns around 1.1 lakh tower.

Published on June 09, 2011
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