After brother, Anil turns to Batelco in war on debt

Written by feBureau | New Delhi/Mumbai | Updated: Apr 10 2013, 07:23am hrs
After sealing a R1,200-crore optic fibre cable deal with elder brother Mukesh Ambanis Reliance Jio Infocomm, Anil Ambanis Reliance Communications is readying a series of further deals, which would help it ease its debt burden of nearly R37,000 crore. Sources said the company is in advanced stages of selling nearly 80% stake in its subsidiary Globalcom to Bahrain Telecommunications Company (Batelco) for around R5,000-6,000 crore. The deal is likely to be sealed by next month. Meanwhile, as a follow-up of its inter-city OFC sharing deal with Reliance Jio, Rcom would enter into a tower sharing pact and intra-city sharing of OFC with the company. The two deals are likely to be sealed within this month itself, sources said. Sources also said that Rcom may also sell stakes in its direct-to-home venture.

RIL is currently in negotiations to rent about 25,000-30,000 towers of RCom, depending on the number of cities that it will start their 4G operations in. There would not be any stake purchase, an official aware of the development said.

Though the commercial terms could not be ascertained, industry experts said the monthly rental for each tower varies between R25,000 and R35,000. RComs subsidiary Reliance Infratel owns 45,000 telecom towers and has been looking for buyers since 2010. It had signed a tower-sharing deal with UAE-based Etisalat which had a 49% stake in Swan Telecom, a new licensee which had entered the market in 2008. However, with the companys licence cancelled by the Supreme Court, Etisalat exited the country leading to the collapse of the deal.

While an RCom spokesperson declined comment, a Batelco spokesperson told a news channel on Monday there was no certainty that it would pick up stake in RComs subsidiary Reliance Globalcom. As we have informed the press in the past, there can be no certainty that any interest we express to Reliance Group will lead to a transaction. A further announcement will be made in due to course if appropriate, the spokesperson said.

Sources said the proceeds from these transactions, aggregating to around R9,000 crore, would be used to pay off RComs debt, estimated at R37,000 crore.

Last month, RCom had said that it is in discussions with Batelco Group with respect to Reliance Globalcom but there could be no certainty about the deal.

Batelco had earlier picked up 49% in C Sivasankaran-promoted STel, which had acquired licences to operate mobile services in three circles in 2008. However, it exited the company after the Supreme Court last year in February cancelled all the 122 licences issued in 2008, including that of Stel.

Reliance Globalcom operations include a fibre business under Yipes in the US, management services business under Vanco in the UK and Flag Telecom. It provides voice, Internet and value-added services. Its 65,000-km sub-sea telecommunications infrastructure network business has strong relationships with around 400 enterprise customers globally.

Rcoms shares closed down 2% at Rs 64.50 on Tuesday on the Bombay Stock Exchange.