Fresh from spending more than €2 billion on mobile spectrum in India's recently-completed auction, Bharti Airtel has reportedly moved to acquire smaller rival Loop Mobile.
The Indian mobile market leader will pay around 3 billion rupees (€35 million) for Loop, in addition to taking on INR4 billion in debt, Reuters reported on Monday, citing two unnamed sources. They predict that a deal could be announced later this week.
Loop Mobile operates in the Mumbai circle only and at the end of 2013 had a subscriber base of 2.98 million, according to new figures published by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Monday.
Its operating licence expires toward the end of this year and it did not attempt to renew it by taking part in the spectrum auction, unlike Bharti and Vodafone, which spent sizeable sums re-acquiring 900-MHz spectrum in Delhi and Mumbai.
In total, Bharti agreed to pay INR185.3 billion (€2.2 billion) for 900-MHz and 1800-MHz spectrum, it revealed in a stock exchange announcement on Thursday. Vodafone's total bill came in slightly higher at INR196.45 billion.
The TRAI's new numbers show that Bharti ended 2013 with 198.4 million mobile customers, giving it a market share of 22.39%. Second-placed Vodafone had 160.4 million connections at the same date, or 18.1% of the market. Both companies have increased their market shares by around one percentage point at the expense of smaller players in the past 12 months.
India ended 2013 with 886.3 million mobile customers - giving it penetration of 71.69%, according to the TRAI - up from 864.7 million a year earlier.