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How Tata Tele-Bharti Airtel deal was done in 5 days

Nivedita Mookerji/New Delhi 13 Oct 17 | 01:47 AM

The deal between Bharti group and Tata Teleservices is yet another example of how swiftly things can change in business. A collapsed deal was brought back to life in the last five days, people close to the transaction said. 

The talks between the Tatas and Bharti had begun a few months ago but by the end of August the negotiations were not going anywhere. Sources in both companies indicated till the end of September that no deal was possible.  Meanwhile, there were talks with other groups as well including Reliance Jio for a possible merger deal. That too didn’t work. The Tatas were now clearly looking at a closure of the telecom business and had begun sounding out customers and employees last month.

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Top officials of the Tata group including CFO Saurabh Agrawal and Tata Tele MD N Srinath visited the Department of Telecom headquarters in New Delhi last Friday (October 6) to inform the government about the closure of the telecom business.

But, Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran, or Chandra as he’s referred to, did not give up. In media interviews last weekend, Chandra said a tough call may have to be taken for the telecom business and that various options were being considered.

ALSO READ: How Tatas made the wrong calls in telecom

It is learnt that Chandra met senior representatives in the government including the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) recently to discuss the telecom business. The government, sources said, is aware of the stress in the telecom industry and would not want any business to shut down at such a critical time.   

ALSO READ: Telecom exposure of Tata group stands at Rs 47,000 crore


From the last weekend (September 30), things started moving. Bharti chairman Sunil Mittal flew to Mumbai to meet Chandra and his A team including Saurabh Agrawal and clinched the deal, sources said. ‘’Yes, all in five days,’’ a source in the know confirmed. There was no need to open the drawing board all over again because discussions had taken place earlier. The two chairmen signed on the dotted line to merge their telecom businesses. While this might help Mittal compete better with newcomer Jio, the Tatas did not have to steer away from their 149-year history of never shutting down any company.   

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