Bharti Airtel hikes stake in Qualcomm’s India wireless broadband venture to 51%

India’s largest telecom operator Bharti Airtel Ltd has picked another 2 per cent in Indian wireless broadband venture of Qualcomm, which has broadband licences for Delhi, Mumbai, Haryana and Kerala, increasing its stake in the business to 51 per cent. The company did not disclose the deal value or from whom it purchased the stake or whether it was through another round of fresh share issue.

Assuming the current deal would value the firm at least as much as it was valued a year ago, Bharti Airtel may have put in over $6.7 million (Rs 40 crore), as per VCCircle estimates.

In May 2012, Bharti Airtel had acquired 49 per cent stake in NASDAQ-listed Qualcomm Inc’s Indian BWA (broadband wireless access) business. It had invested approximately $165 million in this deal.

This involved acquiring 26 per cent stake held by Qualcomm’s two India partners—Global Holding Corporation Pvt Ltd (the privately held group holding entity of GTL, promoted by Manoj Tirodkar) and Tulip Telecom Ltd, and the rest by subscribing to fresh equity of the BWA business entities.

Three years ago, Global Holding and Tulip Telecom had acquired 13 per cent stake each, for a total of $58 million, when Qualcomm announced its Indian partners for the BWA rollout in India. At that time the business was valued at $223 million. This rose around 50 per cent in two years and a year ago, the business was valued at $336 million.

Last year, Bharti Airtel said it will buy the remaining 51 per cent stake in the broadband venture by 2014 and Qualcomm will exit the venture. However, Qualcomm will provide technical assistance in areas like network architecture and optimisation, infrastructure and device testing. It will also help in developing and supporting the underlying technology and the LTE TDD ecosystem.

Bharti Airtel separately holds BWA licences in four circles in India – Kolkata, Karnataka, Punjab and Maharashtra – and 3G licences in 13 circles in the country.

Shares of Bharti Airtel last traded at Rs 301.25 a unit, up 2.38 per cent on the BSE in a strong Mumbai market on Thursday.

 (Edited by Joby Puthuparampil Johnson)

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