Aircel has been in talks with Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio for a service tie-up, but the telco’s ability to make payments is a hurdle
Aircel, the troubled mobile phone operator that has filed for bankruptcy protection, is in talks with investors for strategic financing and is negotiating with Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio Infocomm for intra-circle roaming pacts.
Discussions are also underway with a key vendor to keep its network running and preserve the company’s value, said two people familiar with the developments. “As a service company, Aircel’s customers and employees are at the heart of the company’s value,” one person said.
If the network falters, the company — burdened with debt of Rs 15,500 crore — will lose customers and employees and its value will erode.
Sustaining the company’s value is critical if the insolvency petition filed on Wednesday is accepted because it will allow the interim resolution professional to find bidders for the telco with a view to continue operations for the long term and repay lenders as well.
Intense competition in India’s telecom market has hurt operators including Aircel, which is losing customers, facing partial network shutdowns and going through a cash crunch.
Meanwhile, Aircel’s lenders, which had stopped providing money to the telco, approved the release of funds from a previously frozen account to make some working capital payments, one person said.
The Chennai-based operator, majority owned by Malaysia’s Maxis, filed for bankruptcy in the National Company Law Tribunal after over four months of attempts to settle the matter with lenders.
Banks had finally accepted the company’s request to undertake strategic debt restructuring, when the Reserve Bank of India scrapped loan recast schemes and left Aircel with no option other than filing for bankruptcy.
Aircel is already in talks with telecom tower partner GTL Infrastructure, which shut part of the carrier’s network for non-payment of dues. “Aircel is actively talking to bring the network back online. Once that happens, there is hope of preserving the valuable average revenue per user,” the second person said.
“We are committed to delivering high uptime and quality services to all our customers, including Aircel,” a GTL spokesman said. “We continue to remain in dialogue with them to ascertain the fate of all the outstanding issues, including receipts of our payments and how to assist them to resolve their current challenges.”
Idea Cellular and Vodafone India have stopped the flow of calls from Aircel subscribers to their users because the telco hasn’t paid them termination fees. A person familiar with the matter estimated Aircel’s outgo towards call termination at Rs 100 crore a month.
Aircel has been in talks with Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio for a service tie-up, but the telco’s ability to make payments is a hurdle. The insolvency proceedings may see Bharti Airtel and Jio interested in Aircel’s assets.
Jio agreed in December to buy the assets of Reliance Communications under a similar debt recast programme.
After the competitive onslaught released by Jio since September 2016, Aircel’s operating profit of Rs 120 crore has slipped to an operating loss of an equivalent amount in December. In addition, Maxis promoter T Ananda Krishnan has faced a corruption charge since 2010.
Aircel’s attempted merger with RCom last year came undone after delays in regulatory approvals due to legal hurdles.
Amazon’s subsidiary will directly compete with online grocers BigBasket and Grofers.
Eight months after ecommerce major Amazon received government approval to invest $500 million food retailing in India, it is now gearing up to sell locally made food items through a wholly-owned subsidiary from March in India, according to a report in Economic Times.
Amazon’s subsidiary, which will directly compete with BigBasket and Grofers will also sell locally produced and packaged foods.
The ecommerce major told ET that it is on track to launch its food retailing business.
In July, Amazon got FDA approval to invest $500 million over the next five years in India to sell food that is sourced, produced and packaged locally under its own private label. It plans on selling these items both online and through physical stores.
India created a food-retailing sector to allow foreign companies to set up 100% owned subsidiaries to sell food that is sourced and produced locally. ET reports that Food is the only segment where it’s allowed to sell directly to consumers.
Currently, online grocery players BigBasket and Grofers also received government approval to sell locally produced food products. While being Indian players, these are al funded by foreign companies. Companies such as BigBasket already sells food items under its private labels.
Amazon currently runs an online marketplace in India, which means that it cannot sell directly to consumers. It is only a platform for sellers to sell their items.
The government is also considering allowing food retailer to sell personal care items, limited to 25% of their total sales.
ET reports that the government wants Amazon to keep its food-only retailing away from its marketplace business and maintain separate boards, staff, bank accounts and inventories. In fact, this requirement caused a delay in launching the food retailing venture, which was originally slated to be launched during Diwali.
Amazon will also have to move some of its Amazon Seller Services warehouses to Amazon Retail India and even get Food Safety and Standards Authority of India licensing.
This deal includes the transfer of Foodpanda’s India business to Ola in an acquisition deal in exchange for Ola stock.
Indian cab aggregator Ola has announced the acquisition of Foodpanda’s India business from with Germany based Delivery Hero Group, which owns Foodpanda in India. Ola has also committed to invest $200 million into the Foodpanda India business.
This deal includes the transfer of Foodpanda’s India business to Ola in an acquisition deal in exchange for Ola stock. In a statement, Ola claims that the collaboration between both players will help Foodpanda India grow as the most preferred online food delivery service in the country. Foodpanda India will benefit from Ola’s scale and efficiencies as a platform, also having leveraged learnings from Delivery Hero’s global best practices.
Ola and Delivery Hero will continue to collaborate on building the online food delivery ecosystem in India.
Saurabh Kochhar, who was the CEO of Foodpanda India until recently will move on to pursue other opportunities. Pranay Jivrajka, Founding Partner at Ola, has been appointed as interim CEO of this business unit and will be supported by the existing leadership team at Foodpanda India.
“I’m excited about our partnership with Delivery Hero as we team up to take Foodpanda India to the next level. As one of India’s pioneers in the food delivery space, Foodpanda has come to be a very efficient and profit focused business over the last couple of years. Our commitment to invest $200mn in Foodpanda India will help the business be focused on growth by creating value for customers and partners. With Delivery Hero’s global leadership and Ola’s platform capabilities with unique local insights, this partnership is born out of strength,” Bhavish Aggarwal, Co-founder and CEO at Ola, said in a statement.
“The partnership with Ola will allow us to further consolidate markets where it strategically makes sense to collaborate with leading local players. At the same time, we consider our stake in Ola as a very valuable asset, while Ola’s investment commitment in Foodpanda India is a clear and confident signal to the Indian market,” Niklas Östberg, Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder of Delivery Hero AG, said.
Foodpanda currently operates across 100+ cities in India with menus from over 15,000 restaurants. For FY17, it reported a 6% growth in revenues at Rs 62.16 crore while its losses narrowed from Rs 142.64 crore in FY16 to Rs 44.81 crore.
follow our updates