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Airtel and VIL in talks to turn fibre JV into InvIT

June 12, 2019
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In a bid to attract long term investors, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea Limited (VIL) are planning to turn their proposed optic fibre network joint venture (JV) into an infrastructure investment trust (InvIT).

Under the planned JV, VIL’s 156,000 route km optic fibre assets and Airtel’s 246,000 km fibre assets will be integrated to set up a network of 400,000 route km, more than the 300,000 km network owned by Reliance Jio.

The JV is expected to be an InvIT, as it will enable the two operators to reduce their net debts and free up cash to compete with Reliance Jio. The net debts for Airtel and Vodafone Idea stood at Rs 1.08 trillion and Rs 1.18 trillion during the quarter ended March 31, 2019.

Bharti Airtel has already transferred its optic fibre assets to a wholly-owned unit, while VIL has recently got approvals for its proposal to transfer its fibre assets to Vodafone Towers, its wholly-owned subsidiary to pave way for the merger with Bharti Airtel. The Airtel-VIL optic fibre JV is valued at Rs 350-400 billion.

The move is being planned to compete with Jio, which used a similar strategy by transferring its tower and fibre assets to two special purpose vehicles (SPVs) owned by SEBI-registered InvITs to get rid of debt worth Rs 1.07 trillion.

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