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Rediff.com  » Business » GTL buys Essar arm for Rs 6k cr

GTL buys Essar arm for Rs 6k cr

May 03, 2008 12:20 IST
GTL Infrastructure (GIL), a subsidiary of telecom network major GTL, has acquired Essar Group's tower company Essar Telecom Infrastructure (ETIPL) for an estimated $1.5 billion (Rs 6,000 crore), according to sources.

The deal, expected to be announced next week, will help GIL increase its tower presence by 50 per cent and consolidate its position as an independent infrastructure provider.

"The companies sealed the deal after weeks of intense negotiations. An announcement is slated to be made next week. The deal, believed to have been signed at a premium, is being pegged at around $1.5 billion," the sources told Business Standard.

GIL is believed to have acquired 100 per cent stake in the company through a mix of cash and stake, though this could not be confirmed. The sale will enable the Essar Group to become light on assets and concentrate on its cellular business.

The deal is also one of the largest in the telecom infrastructure space. Recently, the industry saw four such deals totalling more than $15 billion. This includes Reliance Communications 5 per cent stake sale in its tower business for Rs 1,400 crore and Bharti Airtel selling 10 per cent  in its tower company for Rs 4,000 crore (Rs 40 billion).

The deal will help GIL add another 3,500 cell sites (owned and operated by ETIPL) to its portfolio immediately, which would be increased to 20,000 towers by year-end.

When contacted, a GTL spokesperson declined to comment on the development, while an Essar spokesperson said: "Discussions are on. However, no transaction has been finalised yet."

GTL will use internal accruals to fund the acquisition. The company had raised $300 million (Rs 1,200 crore) through a foreign currency convertible bond (FCCB) issue and sanctioned a debt of $700 million (Rs 2,800 crore) by domestic and international banks. It had raised $85 million through a rights issue and $250 million through issue of warrants to the promoter group. 

ETIPL is a closely-held subsidiary of the Essar Group and one of the largest telecom infrastructure service providers in the country. The company builds telecom towers and shares it with other operators in the country.

It has set up sites in Mumbai, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, UP (East), UP (West) and Bihar and Orissa.

On the other hand, GIL has over 6,000 towers across 12 circles in the country and was to expand to eight more circles. The company had announced an investment of $1.7 billion (around Rs 6,800 crore) for setting up 25,000-shared telecom towers in the country.

GSM players Bharti Airtel, Vodafone-Essar and Idea Cellular are also spinning off their tower businesses into a separate entity.

Rajesh S Kurup in Mumbai
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