Aircel expects to complete asset-sale deal in 3 months

Rajesh Kurup Mumbai | Updated on September 25, 2018

In the fray to acquire Aircel’s assets are Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio, private equity fund AION Capital Partners and I Squared Capital   -  M_Periasamy

Debt-laden Aircel is expecting to complete the proposed sales of its assets together valued at about ₹32,000 crore within three months, if not early, and use proceeds to pare debt. The lenders are expecting to raise anywhere between ₹25,000-32,000 crore through the asset sales, as the company inches closer to liquidation.

“These assets include spectrum, fibre and towers, jointly valued at ₹32,000 crore for which bids were earlier called for. The bids closed last week, and the company has received interest from at least three serious players,” a source close to the development told BusinessLine.

“The plan is to complete the entire sales process in the next three months, but these being quality assets, the company is expecting to close a deal much earlier,” another source briefed on the proceedings said.

At present, Aircel holds 21 MHz in the most valuable 900 MHz band, a stronger spectrum that it much sought-after by telecom players, especially operators experimenting with emerging technologies. Further, it holds 65 MHz in 2100 MHz and 103 MHz in 1800 MHz.

The spectrum the company holds in Jammu & Kashmir and North East circles are also a big attraction for operators planning to expand services in these service areas, sources said.

Aircel also holds 15,000 km of optical fibre cable, while the exact number of telecom towers could not be immediately ascertained.

Earlier in 2016, Bharti Airtel and its subsidiary Bharti Hexacom acquired Aircel’s spectrum across 8 eight circles for Rs 3,500 crore. The companies bought 20 MHz in 2300 MHz band from Aircel and its subsidiaries Dishnet Wireless and Aircel Cellular.

In the fray

In the fray to acquire Aircel’s assets are Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio Infocomm, private equity fund AION Capital Partners and I Squared Capital.

On February 27, Aircel had filed for bankruptcy protection before the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) in Mumbai, after its Malaysian promoter, Maxis Communications, decided against pumping additional funds into the company.

Later, the company had shut down its mobile operations but continued with its enterprise business, banking on its fibre and towers.

Money trickling in from creditors, sale of inventory and a payment from Saudi Telecom were keeping Aircel afloat even as the operator had pinned hopes on release of bank guarantees worth ₹751 crore.

The bank guarantees, if received soon, will be the lifeline to continue operations for another 4-6 months as it will help the operate and pay salaries.

Published on September 25, 2018

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