Britain's Vodafone Group and Idea Cellular have agreed to merge their Indian operations in a $23 billion deal, creating the country's biggest telecoms business after the entry of a new rival sparked a brutal price war. As Ivor Bennett reports, the combined entity would have almost 400 million customers.
The writing's been on the wall for months, but now it's official. Britain's Vodafone and Idea Cellular agreeing to merge their India operations in a deal worth 23 billion dollars. They are already the country's second and third biggest operators Together they would occupy the top spot - almost 400 million customers and roughly 40 percent of the revenue - in what is a crucial market. After China, there are none bigger. SOUNDBITE (English) JEREMY BATSTONE-CARR, INDEPENDENT MARKET ANALYST, SAYING: "India remains a major opportunity not just for telecom companies but for major international companies more generally." But competition is fierce. New rival Reliance Jio Infocomm has been offering free services in a bid to attract more customers. They reached the 100 million mark in less than six months. That's sparked a price war and what analysts believe is a new wave of consolidation. Vodafone and Idea will have to shed some spectrum before a deal can go ahead. But Vodafone said it would not be much. The merger is expected to close in 2018.