The merger of Vodafone India and Idea Cellular to create India’s largest MNO has finally been completed.
The two companies first started publicly courting back at the start of 2017 but their protracted engagement took almost two years to come to fruition. The capex-intensive telecoms industry naturally tends towards M&A and the economies of scale it promises, but the brutal arrival of Reliance Jio hastened this process in the unusually fragmented Indian market.
The Vodafone announcement was of the stripped down type often associated with M&A – we didn’t even get a canned quote from the CEO saying how excited they are. There was plenty of reassuring talk about synergies, however, which was nice, and the new company is going to be called Vodafone Idea.
The combined effort claims 408 million customers, which makes Vodafone Idea the largest Indian MNO, with around 38% subscriber share according to Ovum’s WCIS. Bharti AirTel’s 30% share is relegated to second place, while Jio continues to grab subscribers and is a solid third with a 19% share.
It remains to be seen how smooth this merger will be and how much of the anticipated $1.5 billion of synergies will ever be realised. Thanks largely to Jio the Indian market has gone from being highly fragmented to just four players (BSNL has around 10% of subscribers). The brutal price war seems likely to continue and, as much as anything else, this merger seems designed to ensure the two companies involved can survive it.