Bharti Airtel to explore fundraising options, stake sale in tower arm
Photo Credit: Reuters

Telecom operator Bharti Airtel Ltd will explore fundraising options and a possible stake sale in its tower arm, as it looks to strengthen its balance sheet and compete with rivals Vodafone Idea Ltd and Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd.

The company said in a stock exchange disclosure that its board has formed a committee of directors to explore various options of fundraising. The board also approved the transfer of stake of up to 32% in Bharti Infratel Ltd to wholly owned subsidiary Nettle Infrastructure Investments Ltd. The share transfer is subject to the approval of shareholders.

The share transfer to Nettle Infrastructure is being done in order to explore a potential monetisation of the stake in Bharti Infratel in the future, the telecom operator said.

After completion of the stake transfer, Bharti Airtel will hold a 18.33% stake in Bharti Infratel. Nettle Infrastructure will hold a 35.18% stake.

Bharti Airtel had, in March 2017, sold a 10.3% stake in Bharti Infratel to private equity firm KKR and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) for Rs 6,193 crore ($951.6 million then).

In November 2017, Bharti Airtel Ltd had sold another 4.49% stake in its telecom tower infrastructure arm for Rs 3,325 crore ($510 million) to trim its debt. Bharti Airtel sold the stake through Nettle Infrastructure.

In April this year, Bharti Infratel had agreed to merge with Indus Towers.

Separately, six global investors including Warburg Pincus, Temasek, Singtel and SoftBank Group International have agreed to invest $1.25 billion (Rs 9,150 crore) in Bharti Airtel’s Africa unit in October. The proceeds will be used to reduce Airtel Africa’s existing debt of about $5 billion and for growth of its operations on the continent.

In February, Singapore Telecommunications Ltd had agreed to invest Rs 2,649 crore ($413 million) in Bharti Airtel Ltd’s holding company, Bharti Telecom Ltd.

Bharti Airtel also sold a 20% stake in direct-to-home television arm Bharti Telemedia to Warburg Pincus  for $350 million.

Meanwhile, Bharti Airtel has appointed Badal Bagri as the chief financial officer with effect from March next year. He will replace Nilanjan Roy, who is moving to software services company Infosys.

Bagri has been with Airtel since January 2017. He had previously worked with Airtel from 2010 to 2014 and was the chief controller for the consumer business as well as the global financial controller. After leaving Airtel in 2014, Badal had served as chief financial officer at Micromax and Aircel.

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