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India merger to create world's second-largest mobile mast firm

[MUMBAI] India's Bharti Infratel and Indus Towers said Wednesday that they had agreed to merge in a deal that will create the world's second-largest mobile mast company.

The merged entity will boast 163,000 towers across India, behind just China Towers for the number of masts internationally, the firms announced in separate statements to Indian stock exchanges.

"The combined company will be the largest tower company in the world outside China," Bharti Infratel said.

The merged business will be called Indus Towers. Wednesday's deal values it at more than US$14 billion.

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Indian telecom operator, Bharti Airtel, which owns a majority stake in Infratel, will hold the largest share, ahead of Vodafone.

The merger is expected to be completed by March next year.

The deal comes as Vodafone's India operations and Idea Cellular await approval from Indian regulators for their own proposed merger.

It would see the combined firm overtake Bharti Airtel as the country's largest mobile phone carrier.

Vodafone and Idea may decide to sell their stakes in Indus Towers to fund the merger, Indian business dailies have speculated.

India telecoms operators have been rushing to merge or sell assets since Asia's richest man Mukesh Ambani sparked a price war in the telecoms market with the launch of the Reliance Jio network in 2016.