Vodafone CEO and Kumar Mangalam Birla call on Narendra Modi to discuss Idea-Voda merger


KOLKATA & NEW DELHI: Vodafone Group Chief Executive Vittorio Colao and Aditya Birla Group chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla are believed to have met Prime Minister Narendra Modi Tuesday evening to apprise him on the mega Vodafone India-Idea Cellular merger deal that was announced earlier this week.

Colao is learnt to have been accompanied by Vodafone India MD Sunil Sood and P Balaji, the company’s director (regulatory, external affairs & CSR). Birla, in turn, is understood to have been accompanied by Idea Cellular MD, Himanshu Kapania.

The meeting is understood to have lasted some 45-minutes, during which Colao and Birla “shared the detailed contours of the transaction and the strategic reasons behind the merger” amidst a raging price war in the telecom market, multiple people aware.

Vodafone and Aditya Birla Group did not immediately reply to queries seeking a confirmation about the meeting with PM Modi.

The meeting with the PM followed the duo’s reported meeting with telecom minister Manoj Sinha, Colao and Birla are learnt to have apprised the Prime Minister about the intense pressure triggered by the continuing price war in the telecom industry.

They are also understood to have sought the Modi government’s support in facilitating speedy regulatory clearances to conclude the mega merger deal rapidly.

The Vodafone India-Idea combined entity will be the country’s biggest phone company by subscribers, dislodging Bharti Airtel, which has been at the top for 15 years.

Vodafone Group Plc’s India unit and Idea, currently ranked at two and three, respectively, will have a combined nearly 400 million subscribers, 35% of all customers and 41% revenue market share.

The merged entity, with its scale, size and synergies, will be a stronger rival to Reliance Jio Infocomm, which has disrupted the market with free voice and data offers and forced the two to come together.