Bharti makes grand entry into Africa's telecom market

Wednesday, 31 March 2010, 02:19 Hrs   |    1 Comments
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Amsterdam: India's top private telecom company Bharti Airtel Tuesday announced the inking of a $10.7 billion deal to acquire the African assets of Kuwait's Zain in what will make the combined entity the world's fifth largest mobile telephony firm.

This is the largest overseas acquisition of assets in Africa by an Indian company, even though it does not cover the assets of Zain in Sudan and Morocco.

The deal was signed here as this Dutch capital is the corporate headquarters for Zain's African business though the company itself is based in Kuwait and listed on its stock exchange.

Chairman Sunil Mittal, on behalf of Bharti and his counterpart from Zain, Asaad Al Banwan, signed the legally binding definitive agreement.

"This agreement is a landmark for the global telecom industry and a game changer for Bharti. More importantly, this transaction is a pioneering step towards South South cooperation and strengthening of ties between India and Africa. With this acquisition, Bharti Airtel will be transformed into a truly global telecom company with operations across 18 countries fulfilling our vision of building a world-class multinational," Mittal said.

Reacting on the signing of the Bharti-Zain deal, FICCI Secretary General Amit Mitra said: "This is the first time that an Indian telecom firm has gone ahead and acquired a global major. This move by the Bharti group will enhance India's brand equity and add a new dimension to the India growth story. It will also prove to be a milestone in India's economic relations with Africa and further deepen the economic engagement between our two sides."

Post the deal, Bharti will become the world's fifth largest wireless company with operations across 18 countries. Its total customer base will reach around 179 million, including Zain Africa's mobile operations in 15 countries with over 42 million customers.

This was Bharti's third attempt to enter the largely untapped African market after failing to enter into a merger pact with South Africa's MTN on two occasions. Africa accounts a little over 60 percent of Zain's 71.8 million customers.

Bharti Airtel is among Asia's leading telecom service providers with operations in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. As on Jan 31, it had the largest market share of 23.33 percent in India's mobile telephony segment with 121.71 million subscribers.

Some of the highlights of the deal with Zain are:

- Offer of $10.7 billion for Zain's assets

- Deal excludes Zain's operations in Morocco and Sudan

Bharti had late last year failed to strike a deal for the second time with MTN.

The MTN deal, worth some $24 billion in cash and equity, envisaged Bharti getting a 49-percent stake in MTN, and the South African firm and its shareholders 36 percent equity in the Indian telecom major. But it got stuck over policy issues.

Now, MTN will be a major competitor in the territories the Indian company is entering.
Source: IANS
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