ATC buys 51% in Viom

American Tower Corporation (ATC) will buy a 51% stake in mobile phone tower operator Viom Networks for Rs.7,635 crore, or $1.17 billion, in the biggest telecom deal this fiscal. The Boston-based company will combine its local portfolio of 14,000 towers with Viom's estate of 42,200. This will make it the No. 2 player in the world's second largest wireless market after Indus Towers, which has more than 1 lakh mobile phone base stations.
The deal will bring down the stake of Tata Teleservices, which is Viom's majority owner, from the current 54% to 32%. SREI Infrastructure Finance, the second largest shareholder of Viom, will completely exit the company , getting Rs.2,952 crore from the sale of its 18%. Srei's promoters, the Kanorias, have signed a non-compete agreement with the US company in the Indian mobile tower market. Some of the other Viom investors, such as IDFC Private Equity , will also sell part of their interest to American Tower.
The agreement between American Tower and the shareholders of Viom allows the foreign company to buy part or full of the remaining 49% stake in the Indian company Besides Tata Teleservices and IDFC Private Equity , the other investors in Viom are Singapore's sovereign wealth fund GIC, Oman Investment Fund and Macquarie SBI. Viom came into existence in 2009 with the merger of SREI and Tata Teleservices' mobile tower businesses.
Viom, which is in the midst of setting up another 1,000 mobile phone base stations, generated rental and manage ment revenue of Rs.5,000 crore and gross profit of Rs.1,854 crore for the quarter ended June 30. It had debt of Rs.5,812 crore as on September 30.
The deal, subject to regulatory approvals, will help American Tower up its play and position itself stronger in the Indian market of more than 900 million subscribers. The demand for mobile phone towers will grow as telcos expand their 3G and 4G services.
SREI has stated that the substantial cash flow from the transaction will help lower its debt and reduce interest, thereby improving profitability. The deal will also help the loss-making Tata Teleservices pare its Rs.34,000-crore debt and buy its Japanese partner NTT DoCoMo's 26.5% stake in the company .Currently , the two are locked in a court battle in London over valuation differences as DoCoMo has sought a higher exit price.

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