Telenor has agreed to sell its Indian operating company to Bharti Airtel for an undisclosed fee.

Bharti Airtel, India’s largest operator, will take over Telenor India’s spectrum, licenses and operations, including its employees and 44 million customers.  

Sigve Brekke, Chief Executive Officer of Telenor Group, said: “Today’s agreement is in the best interest of our customers, employees and Telenor Group.

“Finding a long term solution to our India business has been a priority for us, and we are pleased with our agreement with Airtel.  

”The decision to exit India has not been taken lightly.

“After thorough consideration, it is our view that the significant investments needed to secure Telenor India’s future business on a standalone basis would not have given an acceptable level of return.”  

Incumbent telecoms operators in the Indian market have come under extreme pressure from the entry of Reliance Jio, which has moved to offer free data services.

Vodafone said earlier this month competition in the Indian market had “heightened”, its revenues there had slumped, and it is itself looking for a merger to stabilise its Indian business.

Vodafone confirmed in January it is talks with Aditya Birla Group about a possible merger, having puts its proposed IPO on hold.

Bharti Airtel is India’s largest wireless operator with over 269 million subscribers, and a 33 percent share of the market in terms of total revenues.  

Gopal Vittal, Managing Director and CEO of Bharti Airtel, said: “The agreement underlines our commitment to lead India’s digital revolution by offering world-class and affordable telecom services through a robust spectrum portfolio spread across multiple bands.”

He added: “On completion, the proposed acquisition will undergo seamless integration, both on the customer as well as the network side, and further strengthen our market position considerably in several key circles.”

Telenor operates in six ‘telecoms circles’, or regions, in India, including Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Bihar, the country’s most populous states, and also retains spectrum in Assam.

The deal, subject to regulatory approval, is expected to close within 12 months. Telenor entered the Indian market in 2008. Its 2016 revenues in India were NOK 6.0 billion (€680 million).

Read more: Telenor returns to profit despite writedown at new digital advertising business

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