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Asia-Pacific deals through March 31: Vodafone, Tencent, Bharti Airtel

TOP NEWS

* Vodafone Group Plc reached an agreement to merge its Vodafone India unit with Idea Cellular, according to a March 20 news release. Under the merger's terms, Vodafone will own 45.1% of the combined telco entity in India, after transferring 4.9% of its stake to the Aditya Birla Group for 39 billion Indian rupees in cash. Idea will own 26%, and its other shareholders will own 28.9% of the combined company. The deal is expected to close in 2018.

* Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd. purchased a 5% stake in Tesla Inc., formerly Tesla Motors Inc., according to a March 28 filing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Tencent paid nearly US$1.78 billion for 8,167,544 shares, acquired through a combination of common stock offering by Tesla and open-market purchases, according to the filing.

* Indian telco Bharti Airtel Ltd. sold a 10.3% stake in its mobile tower subsidiary Bharti Infratel to a consortium of KKR & Co. LP and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board for approximately US$951.6 million, the company said in a March 28 statement to the Bombay Stock Exchange and the National Stock Exchange of India. In addition, Bharti Airtel completed the transfer of an 11.32% stake in Bharti Infratel to its wholly owned subsidiary Nettle Infrastructure Investments Ltd., according to a March 29 statement.

MEDIA

* Dalian Wanda Group Co. Ltd.-owned AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. said March 28 that it completed its purchase of Nordic Cinema Group Holding AB for 5.76 billion Swedish kronor in cash. The Stockholm-based theater operator will be a subsidiary of London-based ODEON & UCI Cinemas Group Ltd., which AMC Entertainment acquired in November 2016. AMC acquired Nordic from European private equity firm Bridgepoint and Swedish media group Bonnier Holding.

* Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. reduced its holding of 9 million U.S. depositary shares in Chinese social network app MOMO, according to a March 27 filing. This was the third time that the Chinese e-commerce giant cut its MOMO stake since August 2016, lowering its shareholding to 14% from the initial 20.7%.

* Russia-based holding company GS Group sold its stake in joint venture Beximco, which operates under the RealVU brand in Bangladesh, and is set to exit the venture, Rapid TV News reported March 25. GS Group has successfully finished its RealVU project, which saw the creation of Bangladesh's first satellite pay TV operator in April 2016.

* A wholly owned subsidiary of China's Zhonghong Zhuoye Group Co. Ltd. agreed to buy an equity stake of about 21% in SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. from certain funds affiliated with Blackstone Group LP at a price of US$23 per share, according to a March 24 news release. The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter.

* Alibaba Group fully acquired the online ticketing platform Damai.cn, Reuters reported March 21, citing a company post on Sina Weibo. Financial details were not disclosed.

COMMUNICATIONS

* Taiwanese smartphone and laptop manufacturer Compal Electronics Inc. will pay 700 million Chinese yuan for a 2.15% stake in Leshi Zhixin, the smart TV division of Chinese tech and media company LeEco, The Paper reported March 28. The deal is scheduled to be completed in June.

* Vocus Group Ltd., formerly Vocus Communications Ltd., sold all of its stake in Australia's Macquarie Telecom Group Ltd., which is 16% of Macquarie's issued share capital. According to a March 28 announcement to the ASX, the shares were sold via a block trade at A$12.20 per share. A March 27 report by The Australian said the stake was offloaded for A$40.87 million.

* Sky Network Television Ltd. and Vodafone NZ filed an appeal to the High Court of New Zealand against the Commerce Commission's rejection of their proposed merger. Sky TV said March 22 that appeals were filed within the statutory time period "to preserve their rights" while they await details of the competition regulator's full reasoning behind the decision. The Commerce Commission had expressed concerns that the resulting entity would have a monopoly on premium sports content.

* Vodafone NZ is acquiring a 70% stake in TeamTalk Ltd. unit BayCity Communications Ltd. for NZ$10 million, the company said March 24. BayCity owns and operates TeamTalk's rural broadband and satellite enterprises. Part of the deal allows TeamTalk to sell the remainder of its 30% stake to Vodafone for NZ$3 million over the next three years.

* Vodafone India secured approval from the Indian government's Foreign Investment Promotion Board for its acquisition of YOU Broadband India, The Economic Times of India reported March 25. The Vodafone Group Plc unit bought YOU Broadband for about 3.5 billion Indian rupees to 4 billion rupees.

* Bharti Airtel said March 23 that it agreed to purchase Tikona Digital Networks' 4G business in five telecom circles, directly acquiring Tikona's 4G business in Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, as well as the western and eastern areas of Uttar Pradesh, while acquiring the Rajasthan circle through its unit Bharti Hexacom Ltd. The deal would include the company's Broadband Wireless Access spectrum and 350 sites.