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Idea Cellular closes tower sale for $595m

Idea Cellular has closed the sale of its tower portfolio to American Tower Corp in a deal worth $595 million as it prepares to complete its merger with Vodafone India.

The Indian mobile operator agreed to offload its 9900-strong portfolio to ATC Telecom Infrastructure – a subsidiary of American Tower – as part of an effort to raise funds ahead of its mega merger with Vodafone’s Indian unit, which is nearing completion.

ATC Telecom Infrastructure – renamed from Viom following another merger of towercos – also struck a deal to buy Vodafone’s Indian towers. Both deals will add 20,000 to its existing portfolio, which is around 42,200 strong.

Once the Vodafone and Idea merger is completed, 6,300 co-located tenancies of the two operators on the combined standalone tower portfolio will collapse into single tenancies over a period of two years without the payment of exit penalties.

Part of the deal with ATC sees it and the combined Vodafone/Idea agreeing to treat each other as long-term preferred partners, Idea said. 

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ATC CEO Jim Taiclet said at the time the deal was announced: "We expect the addition of these two high quality portfolios to be highly complementary to our existing assets and to contribute to long-term leasing growth as India’s leading mobile operators accelerate their 4G network deployments."

It comes as rumours swirled about ATC agreeing to a deal worth around $900 million to settle a compensation dispute with Tata Teleservices for winding up around 30,000 tower tenancies.

Bharti’s tower unit, Bharti Infratel, is also set for a mega merger with Indus Towers that would create the second largest tower company in the world, with over 163,000 towers operating across all 22 Indian telecoms circles.

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