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Bharti Airtel bumps up stake in Bangladesh telecom joint venture
Photo Credit: Reuters

Bharti Airtel Ltd, the India-based multinational telecommunications and digital services company, has picked up an additional 6.3% stake in Robi Axiata Ltd, Bangladesh’s second-largest mobile network.

Robi Axiata is a joint venture between Bharti Airtel, NTT DoCoMo Inc. and Axiata Group Berhad of Malaysia.

In a filing with stock exchanges, Bharti Airtel said it had acquired the stake from Japan’s NTT DoCoMo Inc. via its Singapore-based step-down subsidiary, Bharti International (Singapore) Pte. Ltd.

The all-cash deal will raise the stake of Bharti International (Singapore) in Robi Axiata to 31.3% from 25%.

The financial details of the transaction were not disclosed. 

Bharti Airtel had entered Bangladesh by acquiring a 70% stake in Warid Telecom in 2010. Subsequently, it picked up the remaining 30% in 2013. 

In January 2016, Axiata Group Berhad and Bharti Airtel had agreed to merge their telecom subsidiaries -- Robi Axiata and Airtel Bangladesh.

At the time, experts estimated the enterprise valuation of the merged entity to be around $2 billion.

Shares of Bharti Airtel were up 0.12% at Rs 568.3 apiece at the time of writing this report. 

In December last year, the telecom operator announced that it would raise up to $3 billion via debt and equity instruments as part of its efforts to pay overdue fees to the government. 

The company has faced severe pressure from primary competitor Reliance Jio, whose entry into the sector triggered a price war.

Interestingly, reports last week suggested that global e-commerce giant Amazon.com was in early-stage talks to buy a stake worth at least $2 billion in Bharti Airtel. 

The reports came even as Jio Platforms Ltd – the holding entity of Reliance Jio – continued to raise funds at breakneck pace.

Bharti Airtel has also invested in startups through its Airtel Startup Accelerator Program. In March, for example, it acquired a stake in Spectacom Global Pvt Ltd, a fitness-focused startup. 

In October last year, Airtel announced that it was picking up a stake in Vahan Inc., a Bengaluru-based startup that uses artificial intelligence to match job seekers with employers.

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