Bharti Airtel examines selling stake in African mobile operations

15 February 2018 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

Indian operator Bharti Airtel is considering selling shares in its African operation, which has 14 operations from Burkina Faso to Zambia.

The company says that discussions are still at an exploratory stage and adds that there is no certainty about any conclusion that may be reached.

Bharti Airtel, which is set to be number two in the Indian market, with a 31% share, when the series of consolidations is complete, has operated in Africa since 2010, when it bought much of Zain’s business across the continent for $10.7 billion.

The group’s shares are quoted on both the Bombay Stock Exchange in Mumbai and the National Stock Exchange of India.

Now the company says, in a stock exchange announcement, that it “has authorised its management to initiate non-binding exploratory discussion with various banks/intermediaries to explore possibility/feasibility of listing of its shares on an internationally recognised stock exchange”.

The division in question is Bharti Airtel International (Netherlands) (BAIN), the holding company for the African business, which is registered in Amsterdam. BAIN, incorporated in 2010 when the group bought the former Zain properties, is a wholly owned subsidiary of India’s Bharti Airtel.

It had around 84 million customers in Africa at the end of last year, compared with 290 million in India and 2.15 million elsewhere in South Asia. All 14 African countries – Burkina Faso, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Madagascar, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia – get 3G mobile as well as its Airtel Money service, and four countries now have 4G.

Bharti Airtel has not named the banks and other intermediaries it plans to talk to about a possible flotation of Airtel Africa shares, nor has it said how many shares are likely to be involved.