Indian mobile behemoth Bharti Airtel has strengthened its Asian asset portfolio, having received regulatory approval to pay $300 million (€208m) for a 70% stake in Bangladesh’s fourth-largest cellco Warid Telecom via a new share issue.
“We have approved Bharti Airtel's plan to buy the Warid stake,” Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission chairman Zia Ahmed told The Daily Star.
The move, if successful, will see Bharti compete against global heavyweights Telenor, Axiata and Orascom Telecom in Bangladesh.
Bharti is seeking global expansion opportunities to help prop up its profits from the low ARPU, highly competitive Indian market.
The firm’s targets also reportedly include Kuwait’s Zain Telecom and Sweden’s Millicom International Cellular.
Late last year, Bharti failed to ink a deal to merge with South African giant MTN due to the South African government’s disapproval of the deal. The firm’s only Asian investment is Sri Lankan newcomer Bharti Lanka.
But Bharti has big plans for its proposed Bangladeshi investment.
Ahmed hopes Bharti’s investment in Warid Telecom will surpass a total of $1 billion in the next few years.
According to The Daily Star, Warid’s controlling investor the Abu Dhabi Group has not invested in its Bangladeshi business for some time and is seeking a partner to inject funds for expansion.
Under local law, Bharti must pay 5% of the purchase price it pays for Warid to BTRC.
According to the regulator, Warid had 2.92 million active mobile subscriptions at end-November. Market leader Telenor-backed Grameen Phone had 22.8 million customers, followed by Orascom-owned Banglalink and Axiata Bangladesh with 13 million subs and 8.9 million subs respectively.