Airtel to close deal with Warid Telecom

Thursday, 31 December 2009, 02:34 Hrs
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Dhaka: Indian telecom firm Bharti Airtel is close to acquiring a majority stake in the Bangladesh operations of Warid Telecom, with officials of both companies meeting key officials to wrap up the deal, a newspaper report said Wednesday.

The Indian company is looking at buying a 70 percent stake in Warid and has received a favourable response from the Bangladeshi firm's promoters -- the Abu Dhabi group -- who are here to thrash out the deal.

"A memorandum of understanding (MoU) could be signed between the companies during the visit," The Daily Star newspaper quoted a Warid Telecom official as saying.

The MoU is the primary step before signing the final deal between the companies to share confidential business strategies.

In a related development, chairman and group chief executive officer of Bharti Enterprises Sunil Bharti Mittal called on Bangladesh telecom minister Rajiuddin Ahmed Raju at his office Tuesday.

Both Bharti Airtel and the Abu Dhabi group, which has diversified business interests in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Uganda, Congo and West Asia, have sought the approval of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), the country's sectoral watchdog.

BTRC has asked for some details from the companies such as Airtel's investment plans in Bangladesh, and the approvals of the two companies' board of directors.

BTRC also asked the two firms to clarify how Warid Telecom would clear its liabilities, including bank loans, after the stake sale.

"BTRC has asked the companies to submit these documents before signing the deal," said The Daily Star quoting the commission chairman Zia Ahmed.

Bharti Airtel has placed a $300-million initial investment plan to BTRC, which will be implemented after signing the deal.

According to The Daily Star, Bangladesh telecom secretary Sunil Kanti Bosh has confirmed that Airtel would invest in Bangladesh.

Bosh said the company wanted to develop the voice market in Bangladesh and planned to provide telecom services between that country and India at affordable rates.

SingTel, Vodafone and Etisalat have also approached Warid to form a partnership in Bangladesh.

Incidentally, another Indian telecom operator, Essar Group, acquired a majority share in Warid's operations in Uganda and Congo for $318 million.

Warid entered Bangladesh as its sixth mobile operator in May 2007 and has 2.79 million subscribers.
Source: IANS
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