Idea Cell In Talks With Lenders To Revamp Exposure In Target Firms

Mumbai, Nov 9: | Updated: Nov 10 2003, 05:30am hrs
Idea Cellular, a joint venture between Birla-Tata-AT&T, has initiated discussions with the lenders of potential acquisition candidates for restructuring of their exposure in these companies. The company is in advanced stages of negotiations with shareholders of these cellular players for acquiring or entering into equity alliances with these players.

Idea is in the process of engaging investment bankers as advisors to these potential transactions.

Sources close to Idea Cellular added that it was close to firming up its plans to raise funds which are believed to be in the peak region of Rs 600 crore. A series of pitches are believed to have been made by bankers and investment bankers for the mandate.

Idea is believed to be eyeing players like Spice Telecom, Escotel, RPG Cellular as well as Hexacom as these players complement the footprint of cellular circles owned and operated by Idea at present.

It was earlier reported in FE that Idea was at a decisive stage of negotiation with the Escorts-promoted Escotel to buy over its existing circles. If this acquisition does go through, it would bring the cellular circles of Kerala, Uttar Pradesh (West) and Haryana under Idea Cellulars belt. Spice Telecom operates in Karnataka and Punjab, while RPG Cellular provides services in Chennai. Significantly, all the said operators have been seriously considering the option of bringing in a strategic partner or selling out completely.

Idea Cellular has put together an apex team, with representation from the Tatas as well as the Birlas, to activate the strategy of consolidation. The team consists of senior executives like Rajiv Dhar (vice-president - projects) and Girish Nadkarni (manager-projects) from Tata Industries. The AV Birla Group is represented by Bharat Banka (senior vice-president & deputy head corporate finance) and Rakesh P (senior manager Birla Management Corporation).

Idea has also achieved financial closure where it completed restructuring of close to Rs 5,000 crore with almost 60 bankers in an year-long exercise.

Idea provides cellular services in Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Delhi.

The subscriber base across these five circles is almost 1.9 million (as per the figures released by the Cellular Operators Association of India for September 2003).