Bharti Airtel scopes out Warid
Indian telecom giant Bharti Airtel has sought the regulator's approval to buy a 70 percent stake in Warid, the fourth largest mobile company in Bangladesh.
The value of the deal could approximate $900 million, according to Warid officials.
The company has also placed a $300 million initial investment plan to Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), which will be implemented after signing the deal.
The BTRC received Bharti Airtel's letter on Sunday. The commission also got a letter from Abu Dhabi Group, the owning company of Warid.
"We have received a letter from Abu Dhabi Group that said it wants to sell a 70 percent stake in Warid Telecom in Bangladesh," Zia Ahmed, chairman of BTRC, told The Daily Star yesterday.
However Warid officials declined to give further details of the possible tie-up.
The BTRC chairman said: "We will soon call officials from both the companies to get details."
The issues over the sale of Warid stake were discussed much in the last few months in the industry, as the company is not performing in line with its expectations. Talks over the sale hot up as another Indian telecom operator, Essar Group, acquired the majority share in Warid's operations in Africa.
Essar Group acquired the operations in Uganda and Congo at $318 million.
Earlier Warid officials had said it was on the lookout for a partner to raise fresh capital for investment in its next phase of operations in Bangladesh.
Warid made its Bangladesh debut as the sixth mobile operator in May 2007 and has roped in 2.79 million subscribers until October. Partnership is crucial to Warid as its investment cost is higher than other operators because of 'discrimination' in frequency allocations, said the officials of the company.
"We are willing to invite a partner, as a huge investment is required to take our operations to the next level," said Muneer Farooqui, chief executive officer of Warid Telecom, in an exclusive talk with The Daily Star in May.
Several companies, such as SingTel, Vodafone and Etisalat, had also approached Warid to form a partnership in Bangladesh.
Among the bottom three operators, Warid is a lucrative option for prospective investors, as the company is the lone owner of the next generation networks. However the company's network expansion plans have been disrupted due to a lack of frequency.
Bharti Airtel is one of the Asia's leading providers of telecommunication services with presence in all the 22 licensed jurisdictions in India, and in Sri Lanka. It served an aggregate of 113,439,670 customers as of September 30, according to the company website.
The company also deploys, owns and manages passive infrastructure pertaining to telecom operations under its subsidiary Bharti Infratel Ltd.