India’s largest cellco by subscribers Bharti Airtel may look to buy back its 4.4% equity stake from UK-based Vodafone Group, Telecom Tiger writes, citing ‘highly placed’ sources close to the development. Both Bharti Airtel and Vodafone’s own local subsidiary Vodafone India successfully bid for spectrum in the Kolkata circle to renew their existing concessions, which are due to expire in November this year. Under new licensing rules, however, operators or stakeholders may not hold beneficial interest in multiple licensees within a single operating area. In order for both operators to continue operating in the metro circle, Vodafone will have to sell off its stake, although the deadline for such a transaction is unclear: then duo are expected to have one year from the allocation of the unified licence (i.e. November 2015) to complete the deal, but Department of Telecommunications (DoT) sources claim that the sale must be finalised before the concessions are distributed. Vodafone had noted in a letter to the DoT in mid-2013 that it indirectly held a 4.4% stake in Airtel, subsequently explaining in December that year that the holding is not in the cellco itself, but ‘a holding company privately owned by the Mittal family.’
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