Telecom, Tech Deals Fuel Merger Boom In India

Political stability, a fast-growing economy and a sustained program of economic reformsare among the reasons for the feverish pace of takeover activity in the south Asian republic.

India is in the midst of a merger boom, with more than $15 billion of M&A and private-equity transactions in January alone, following a record $60.5 billion worth of such deals for all of last year. The country’s political stability, fast-growing economy and a sustained program of economic reforms—including government efforts to attract foreign capital—are among the reasons cited for the feverish pace of takeover activity.

There were 47 M&A deals worth $15.1 billion in January 2018, up from 45 deals worth $2.3 billion in January 2017, according to accounting and consulting firm Grant Thornton. The largest deal this January was state-owned Oil & Natural Gas’ $5.8 billion purchase of a controlling stake in Hindustan Petroleum, followed by Reliance Jio’s $3.8 billion acquisition of the wireless infrastructure assets of Reliance Communication.

M&A opportunities in 2018 will remain abundant, due in part to the volume of stressed corporate assets on offer at tempting valuations, the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India said in a recent white paper. “There has been a quantum leap in M&A transactions in India,” the paper said.


In April 2017, India amended the Companies Act to permit cross-border takeovers under Indian corporate law. The previous law allowed a foreign company to merge with an Indian company, as long as the domestic company would exercise control, but it did not allow an Indian company to be merged into a foreign company.

The merger of Vodafone India and Idea Cellular to create India’s largest telecom operator, worth more than $23 billion, was the country’s largest M&A deal of 2017. “The combination of Vodafone India and Idea will create a new champion of Digital India, founded with a long-term commitment and vision to bring world-class 4G networks to villages, towns and cities across India,” Vittorio Colao, CEO of UK-based Vodafone Group said when the deal was announced in March 2017.

Digital India is the government program launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015 with the aim of connecting rural areas of the country with high-speed Internet networks and improving digital literacy.

Other top deals of 2017 included Axis Bank’s acquisition of payment wallet Freecharge, e-commerce company Flipkart’s acquisition of the Indian unit of eBay, and Bharti Airtel’s buyout of Norway’s Telenor (India) Communications.

Among the largest outbound M&A deals of 2017: Tech Mahindra’s acquisition of US-based healthcare IT consulting firm SJS Solutions, and software-services exporter Wipro’s acquisition of Brazilian IT firm InfoServer.

Telecom firms accounted for one-third of the value of all Indian M&A transactions in 2017, followed by financial services’ 17% market share and technology’s 12%, according to data from Thomson Reuters.

India climbed 30 places to 100 in the World Bank’s latest Ease of Doing Business ranking, released last October. The World Bank also named India as one of the top 10 countries in reforming its business environment.