Axiata's India associate in merger talks with Vodafone

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KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 1): Axiata Group Bhd's 20%-owned India associate, Idea Cellular Ltd, is initiating preliminary negotiation with UK-based Vodafone Group Plc for a merger of operations through a cashless deal.

In a statement this Monday (Jan 30), Vodafone confirmed that it is in discussions with Aditya Birla Group about an all share merger of Vodafone India (excluding Vodafone's 42% stake in Indus Towers Ltd) and Idea.

Aditya Birla owned a 23.26% stake in Idea and a 16% stake in Indus Towers as at Mar 31 last year.

"Any merger would be effected through the issue of new shares in Idea to Vodafone and would result in Vodafone deconsolidating Vodafone India," the statement read.

Vodafone added that there is no certainty that any transaction will be agreed, nor as to the terms or timing of any transaction.

According to India's The Economic Times today, Axiata welcomed the consolidation move, saying that "as a long-standing minority shareholder with a strategic stake in Idea, Axiata welcomes and supports the consolidation of India's telecoms market".

The news sparked interest in Idea's shares, which rose as much as 29% but pared gains to settle at INR110.10 (RM7.217) yesterday.

Today, the counter slid another INR2.70 or 2.45% to close at INR107.40, valuing it at INR386.60 billion.

Axiata, however, saw its share price fall 11 sen or 2.27% to close at RM4.73 on Tuesday, giving it a market capitalisation of RM42.44 billion.