Airtel to acquire over 2.7M subscribers of Essar-owned Kenyan telco YuMobile

Airtel Networks Kenya Ltd (Airtel Kenya), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Bharti Airtel International Netherlands BV, has signed a definitive agreement with Essar Telecommunications Kenya Ltd, which operates under the brand of yuMobile, to acquire its over 2.7 million subscribers, as per a stock market disclosure. The deal value remained undisclosed.

The deal is subject to the approval from competition authority of Kenya (CAK) and is likely to be concluded by fourth quarter of this year.

In March this year, Kenyan telecom operator Safaricom Ltd and Airtel Kenya Ltd, the local unit of Indian telecommunication giant Bharti Airtel Ltd, have made a joint bid to acquire yuMobile, for $100 million.

Later in the same month, Kenya's telecoms regulator granted conditional approval to the Safaricom and the local unit of Bharti Airtel to buy yuMobile.

Safaricom, which is 40 per cent owned by Vodafone, wants to acquire yuMobile's infrastructure such as base stations to help improve the quality of its network. 

The conditions cover areas such as infrastructure sharing and cooperation between the companies on customer money transfer services and SIM registrations.

With reference to that announcement, Airtel has received the approval from the communication authority (CA) of Kenya.

Founded in 2008, Essar Telecom Kenya, formerly known as Econet Wireless Kenya Ltd, is based in Nairobi, Kenya, and is joint venture between India’s diversified business group Essar group and Zimbabwe-based Econet Wireless International.

Presently, yuMobile which is the fourth-biggest operator in the country, has a subscriber base of over 3 million.

The acquisition will mark another expansion for Bharti Airtel in Africa. Last year Bharti Airtel signed a definitive agreement to buy out Warid’s Congo Brazzaville business after snapping Warid’s Uganda business.

It had also acquired an additional 13.36 per cent equity stake in Airtel Networks Ltd, Nigeria, from certain existing shareholders taking its holding to 79.06 per cent stake in Airtel Networks (formerly known as Celtel Nigeria Ltd), the single-largest African telecom asset of Bharti Airtel.

It became an indirect subsidiary of Bharti Airtel (with 65.7 per cent holding) as part of a multi-billion-dollar deal in which Bharti Airtel acquired the pan-African telecom assets of Zain. In 2010-11, the company took over operations in 16 countries across Africa and a year later, expanded its footprint through a greenfield launch in Rwanda. Airtel is the second-largest among all telecom operators in Africa.

Recently, as per a media report, Airtel is in advanced stage talks with American Tower Corporation (ATC) and Eaton Towers for selling its tower assets in several African countries, including Nigeria, Ghana and Uganda.

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