Telenor of Norway signaled its exit from India’s wireless market yesterday with an agreement to sell its Indian wireless unit to Bharti Airtel for an undisclosed sum. The pact between Telenor and Bharti Airtel, India’s largest wireless carrier, comes in the wake of the recent entry of upstart carrier Reliance Industries into India’s crowded wireless telecommunications sector. Since launching service last year, Reliance has quickly captured market share with deeply discounted voice and data service plans that have forced rivals to slash costs. Telenor, which entered the Indian market in 2008, holds a four percent slice of the national wireless sector with 44 million customers across six regions. The company also reported US$720 million in revenues for its operations in India during 2016. Describing the sale of his company’s India operations as “in the best interest of our customers, employees and Telenor Group,” Telenor CEO Sigve Brekke said that, “after thorough consideration, it is our view that the significant investments needed to secure Telenor India’s future business on a standalone basis will not give an acceptable level of return.
Meanwhile, Bharti Airtel managing director Gopal Vittal predicted that the deal will bring “significant synergies” which will “create substantial long term value for our shareholders.” Vittal also remarked that “the acquisition of additional spectrum through this transaction, which made an attractive business proposition, has further enhanced our already solid spectrum portfolio.” Contingent upon receipt of regulatory approvals, the parties expect to complete the transaction within a year.