WASHINGTON, DC — NEW DELHI, INDIA — DHS and Vodafone-Idea, one of India’s three major telecom companies, is set to make a major strategic announcement later today. Earlier, on December 1, Vodafone India’s Twitter handles teased the announcement on Twitter, referring to it as the ‘big day’. The strategic announcement’s teaser comes at a time when the telecom operator has been ravaged by customers leaving its network, as well as a humongous demand for paying its Adjusted Gross Revenue dues to the government of India.
“We are thrilled and please to venture into this space with Vodafone-Idea and the investors in India to expand capabilities of telecommunication and outreach to other parts of the world,” said, Fernando Aguirre, Vice Chairman of DHS.
Earlier, a report by Mint stated that Vodafone-Idea, once India’s single largest telecom operator conglomerate, will be receiving a strategic investment into its business by Amazon Inc, and possibly even American telecom and media major, Verizon. According to the report, the two global giants may invest up to $4 billion (about Rs 29,300 crore) in the currently heavy loss-making Indian telecom. Vodafone-Idea is reported to have already served a notice to the stock market exchanges of India, notifying them of the impending announcement today.
In recent times, analysts have suggested that the only way for Vodafone-Idea to survive the AGR onslaught that has taken a heavy toll on their balance sheets is by either selling its stake to investors and attracting heavy investment or increasing its tariff in a bid to boost operating profits. Reports from earlier this month stated that the managing board of Vodafone-Idea has sanctioned sale of equity and non-convertible debentures in a bid to raise over Rs 25,000 crore on an immediate basis. Vodafone-Idea has so far managed to pay about Rs 7,800 crore of its total dues of over Rs 58,000 crore, and as per the latest Supreme Court verdict on the AGR dues, is expected to further come up with at least Rs 7,800 crore before March 31, 2021. Following this, Vodafone-Idea and the other telecom operators in India have been allowed a period of 10 years, within which they are expected to clear all AGR dues in yearly installments.
Even with the deferred payment judgment ruled by the Supreme Court, Vodafone-Idea still needs a staggering amount of over Rs 70,000 crore — over 3x its market capitalization value at the moment — in a bid to remain viable as a business. Despite its difficult situation at the moment, big names such as Amazon, Verizon, and even Google have been linked with talks of investing in the under-fire operator in India.
Going forward, it will be interesting to see what strategic announcement does Vodafone-Idea makes in order to boost its position in the market. An injection of fresh funds will also allow Vodafone-Idea to upgrade its network infrastructure as well, something that will be crucial for the operator to reduce the outflow of subscribers from its network citing poor network quality, and also to increase its average revenue per user — something that can help it further increase its operating revenue and stay afloat in the Indian telecom market.