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Airtel Reaches 100M Subs; To Look At Acquisitions For 200M Target

16 May, 2009

Bharti Airtel, India’s leading telecoms firm by subscribers, hopes to double customers to 200 million within three years, its chairman said, adding any acquisition would see it reach the target even faster.

Bharti said on Friday its total subscriber base had crossed 100 million, doubling since October 2007. Ninety-six percent of its subscribers are mobile phone users and it accounts for about a quarter of the Indian mobile market.

“Two and a half, three years time should be good time for us to get those 100 million now,” Chairman Sunil Mittal said.

“If there are some acquisitions that would happen during this period, certainly that 200 million number should arrive at a much earlier date,” he told reporters.

Bharti is adding close to 3 million mobile customers a month, but intense competition in a crowded market has seen its percentage shares of industry additions fall.

The telecom, which began mobile services in 1995 after India opened up the sector, also has mobile operations in Sri Lanka.

Talks failed last year with South Africa’s MTN for a deal that would have created a global top-10 telecoms, but Mittal was still open to acquisitions, including in India.

“I think all of us believe there will be consolidation in India,” he said.

“If there are opportunities in India, … as and when they come we will be open to evaluating them, but then again I would say there is really nothing on the table.”

Southeast Asia’s top phone firm, Singapore Telecommunications, owns about 31 percent in Bharti Airtel, and Chairman Chumpol NaLamlieng told reporters there was currently no plan to increase that stake. 

“We have a substantial stake and we are very happy and we are very pleased with our partners… I would say today we have no plans,” he said, although he added if there was an opportunity to raise the stake, then SingTel would “certainly look at it.”  


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Airtel Reaches 100M Subs; To Look At Acquisitions For 200M Target

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