Bharti Airtel may sell operations in four African nations to French telco Orange
Reuters | Photo Credit: Sunil Mittal

Bharti Airtel Ltd, the world's third-largest mobile operator in terms of subscribers, has entered into an exclusive agreement with French telecom group Orange, to sell operations in four countries in Africa, according to a press release.

It is exploring the possibility of divesting operations in Burkina Faso, Chad, Congo Brazzaville and Sierra Leone.

However, it added that there is no certainty of any binding agreement as a result of these discussions.

Airtel had entered the African market in 2010 after acquiring Zain Telecom's business in the continent for about $10.7 billion, in the second biggest overseas buy by an Indian firm. The company now offers services in 17 African countries but is yet to turn profitable.

In separate developments, the company has been trying to divest non-core assets, essentially telecom towers, in the continent. It had announced plans to sell towers in 13 countries in Africa of which it had concluded sale in five countries for over $1.3 billion. Sale agreement for two other countries had lapsed while sale of towers in six other countries is under process.

For Orange, the proposed deal would expand its geographical spread. Currently it is present in 29 countries with total customer base of 247 million, including 188 million mobile customers and 16 million fixed broadband customers.

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