Vittorio Colao, Kumar Mangalam Birla may have met PM Narendra Modi to seek support for speedy 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 to apprise him on the Vodafone India-Idea Cellular merger deal announced earlier this week.

Colao and Birla met Modi on Tuesday evening, accompanied by Vodafone India Managing Director Sunil Sood, company director P Balaji, and Idea CellularBSE 0.22 % MD Himanshu Kapania, multiple people aware of the development told ET.

The meeting lasted some 45 minutes, during which Colao and Birla “shared the detailed contours of the transaction and the strategic reasons behind the merger” amid a raging price war in the telecom market, one of them said.

Vodafone and Aditya Birla Group did not reply to ET’s queries seeking a confirmation about the meeting with the prime minister.

According to sources, Colao and Birla met the PM after the duo’s reported meeting with telecom minister Manoj Sinha. They are understood to have apprised Modi about the intense pressure triggered by continuing price war in the industry, and sought the government’s support in facilitating speedy regulatory clearances to conclude the mega merger deal rapidly.

The merger will create the country’s biggest phone company by subscribers, dislodging Bharti AirtelBSE 0.09 % that has been at the top for 15 years. Vodafone India and Idea combined have nearly 400 million subscribers, 35% of all telecom customers in the country with 41% revenue market share in the industry.

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.