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Tata Group units, Bharti Airtel to merge consumer mobile businesses across India

Tata Group has struck a deal to merge the consumer mobile businesses of its two telecom units into Bharti Airtel Ltd. for an undisclosed sum.

The deal means Bharti Airtel will absorb the consumer mobile segments of Tata Teleservices Ltd. and Tata Teleservices Maharashtra Ltd. in 19 telecom circles, or service areas, across India, according to a news release. The acquisition will include the businesses' customers, assets and spectrum in the 850, 1,800 and 2,100 MHz bands, totaling 178.5 MHz.

The agreement also grants Bharti Airtel the right to use a portion of Tata's existing fiber network.

The merger will be debt-free and cash-free, except for Bharti Airtel assuming a small part of Tata's unpaid spectrum liability to India's Department of Transportation, which will be paid on a deferred basis. Employees affected by the deal will be moved to the new entity following a split of the two Tata units into the consumer mobile as well as the enterprise and fixed line and broadband businesses.

The respective boards of Tata Group's holding company Tata Sons Ltd., Tata Teleservices, Tata Teleservices Maharashtra and Bharti Airtel have approved the transaction, which is subject to regulatory approvals.

Meanwhile, Tata Group said it is also looking at combining its enterprise business with Tata Communications Ltd., as well as merging its fixed-line and broadband business with Tata Sky Ltd. Such transactions, if pushed through, will be subject to board and other requisite approvals. Tata Group will also keep its stake in towers company Viom Networks Ltd., which is 51% owned by American Tower Corp.

Tata Group and Bharti Airtel's parent company Bharti Enterprises Ltd. previously considered merging Tata Teleservices, Tata Sky and Tata Communications with Bharti Airtel and its direct-to-home unit airtel Digital TV. Bharti, however, eventually decided to end the talks.

Tata Group recently decided to shutter Tata Teleservices.