Airtel cashes in on African safari

6 global investors to invest $1.25bn in Africa subsidiary, which will use money to cut debt and grow

  • Published 25.10.18, 1:25 AM
  • Updated 25.10.18, 1:25 AM
  • a min read
Aiming for rapid growth Source: Airtel TVC

Six global investors, including Warburg Pincus, Temasek, Singtel and SoftBank Group International, will invest $1.25 billion in Airtel Africa, a subsidiary of Bharti Airtel.

The investments will be through a primary equity issuance and values Airtel Africa at $4.4 billion.

Bharti Airtel, which has been bleeding because of the price war with rivals such as Reliance Jio, plans to use the proceeds to reduce Airtel Africa’s existing debt of $5 billion and to grow its Africa operations.

Airtel Africa, the UK-incorporated subsidiary of Bharti Airtel, subsequently plans to come out with an initial public offering and use the proceeds primarily to further reduce debt. The telecom major had earlier this year announced plans to list its African arm.

“The transaction will help us further deleverage our balance sheet and boost our capacity to upgrade networks, expand coverage in different markets and achieve rapid growth of Airtel Money across our operations,” said Raghunath Mandava, chief executive of Bharti Airtel’s Africa unit.

Telegraph infographic

The present transaction will not involve any sale of shares by existing shareholders, the company said.

Faced with a price war in the local market since the market entry of Reliance Jio in 2016, the Sunil Mital-led company has embarked on debt reduction as well as monetisation of non-core assets.

Bharti Airtel’s African safari had been a successful one ever since it bought out Zain’s Africa operations in 2010 for $10.7 billion. Even as it expanded its network through buy-outs and organic growth, making it the second-largest telecom operator in the continent with a customer base of 91 million, the parent firm in India continued to suffer from an all-out tariff battle with rivals.

Airtel Africa has operations in 14 nations, including Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria.