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Vodafone-Idea India telco combine names Balesh Sharma as its new CEO

Balesh Sharma is currently the chief operating officer at Vodafone India.

A man checks his mobile phone next to a Vodafone logo at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, February 28, 2018.

Vodafone India and Idea Cellular Ltd, which are in the process of a merger, on Thursday outlined the key leadership team which will head the merged entity.

Kumar Mangalam Birla will be the non-executive chairman of the merged company. Balesh Sharma, who is currently the chief operating officer (COO) of Vodafone India, has been as the chief executive officer (CEO) of the merged entity.

Akshaya Moondra, currently chief financial officer at Idea Cellular, will be the CFO and Ambrish Jain, currently deputy managing director at Idea, will take over as COO of the merged entity, a statement from Vodafone Group Plc said.

Both Moondra and Jain will report to Balesh Sharma, who will be responsible for the combined business’s strategy and its execution as well as driving integration.

Mint had on 10 February reported that Birla may be appointed as the chairman of the Vodafone-Idea combine.

“Vodafone and Idea continue to make good progress in securing the required regulatory approvals for the merger…and completion is expected to be in the first half of the current calendar year,” the statement said.

The merged entity is yet to receive the final approval from the department of telecommunications. It has already received approval from the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), the Competition Commission of India (CCI) and the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi).

The Vodafone-Idea merger, aimed at dominating a market that Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd had disrupted with free voice calls and low data tariffs, will create the world’s second largest and India’s largest telecom firm in terms of subscribers, overtaking Bharti Airtel Ltd.

The existing leadership teams of Idea Cellular and Vodafone India will continue to manage their separate businesses and be accountable for each company’s operational performance until the merger becomes effective, the statement said. The two will cease to operate as distinct and competing entities only upon completion of the merger.

Manish Dawar, currently CFO of Vodafone India, will have overall responsibility for integration planning, governance and execution. Nick Gliddon, currently director, Vodafone Business Services, at Vodafone India, will head the enterprise business of the merged entity.

Sashi Shankar, currently chief marketing officer at Idea, will head the marketing and brand strategy while Vishant Vora, currently chief technology officer of Vodafone India, will assume responsibility for networks and overall technology strategy.

Vodafone India’s HR head Suvamoy Roy Choudhury would continue in the same role for the merged entity, and Prakash Paranjape, currently chief information officer at Idea Cellular, will be responsible for IT operations.

Kavita Nair, who is associate director (commercial operations) at Vodafone India, will lead digital transformation across all functions. Navanit Narayan, chief service delivery officer at Idea Ceullar, will be incharge of strategy. P. Balaji, Vodafone India’s head of regulatory, external affairs and CSR, will have the same role in the merged entity.

Vodafone India’s general counsel Kumar Das will lead the legal function. Rajesh Srivastava, chief commercial officer at Idea, will hold charge of the procurement function of the combined businesses.

Idea’s head of corporate affairs Rajat Mukherjee and head of technology Anil Tandon would be full-time advisers to the merged business in their respective areas of expertise.

Vodafone India CEO Sunil Sood will join Vodafone Group Plc’s Africa, Middle East & Asia-Pacific leadership team. Aditya Birla Group intends to nominate Himanshu Kapania, currently the CEO of Idea Cellular, as non-executive board member of the merged entity, the statement added.

The Idea-Vodafone merger, announced in March 2017, is based on equal rights and equal shareholding between Idea’s promoters and Vodafone. To achieve this, Vodafone has kept its 42% stake in Indus Towers Ltd, valued at around $5 billion, out of the deal’s purview. It can also contribute Rs2,500 crore more net debt than Idea into the merged entity.

On 4 January 2018, the promoters of Idea Cellular said they will invest Rs3,250 crore into the firm. As a result of a change in Idea’s shareholding following the fundraising, Aditya Birla Group and Vodafone agreed the former will buy a minimum of 2.5% of the merged entity from Vodafone, or such stake as is required in order for it to ultimately own at least 26% of the merged entity, Vodafone said in a statement then.

Consequently, Vodafone will receive minimum proceeds of Rs1,960 crore from such a sale and Vodafone’s ownership in the combined entity is expected to be approximately 47.5% at completion.

The two companies also await the closure of the deal with ATC Telecom Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd, which has agreed to purchase a total 20,000 standalone telecom towers of Idea Cellular and Vodafone India for $1.2 billion.

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