Bharti Airtel on Tuesday confirmed that it has agreed to acquire smaller rival Loop Mobile, a move that will enable it to boost its presence in the major market of Mumbai.
Bharti described the deal as a "proposed association", noting that definitive agreements have yet to be signed and will be subject to regulatory approvals. Once the deal closes, Loop's Mumbai customers – the telco does not operate anywhere else in India - will become part of the Airtel network.
Talk of a tie-up between Bharti and comparative minnow Loop emerged on Monday, when Reuters sources predicted the pair would sign a deal worth 7 billion rupees (€83 million), including the assumption of around INR4 billion in Loop debt. In its announcement the following day, Bharti did not specify a price.
The Indian operator did highlight the impact the deal will have on its Mumbai operations though.
Adding Loop's 2.98 million customers to its own will give Bharti a subscriber base of 7.2 million in Mumbai, making it the largest operator there, albeit by a small margin. At present, Vodafone has the biggest customer base in the city with 7 million, followed by Reliance Communications with 6.1 million. Based on these end-2013 figures, a combined Bharti/Loop would have a 24% share of the Mumbai market.
Once the deal is completed, Bharti will also take control of the 2,500 cell sites that make up Loop's 2G/EDGE network in Mumbai, adding those to its own 4,000-plus 2G and 3G sites in the city.
"The agreement will ensure continuity of quality services to Loop Mobile's subscribers, while offering them the added benefits of Airtel's innovative product portfolio," Bharti said, making reference to its mobile money, roaming and value-added services.