Airtel sells tower stake to cut debt

Mumbai: Bharti Airtel has sold another 83 million shares in Bharti Infratel, its mobile tower subsidiary, for over Rs 3,325 crore.

Earlier this year, Airtel had sold a 10.3 per cent stake in Bharti Infratel to a consortium of KKR and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board for Rs 6,193.9 crore.

The latest round of share sale was done on the National Stock Exchange on Tuesday and the proceeds will be used to pare debts.

The sale was carried out by Airtel via its wholly-owned subsidiary Nettle Infrastructure Investments.

The secondary share sale was executed at Rs 400.6 per share, representing a 3.6 per cent discount to the previous day's closing price.

The buyers included global investors, fund managers and long-only funds, including many repeat investors, Bharti said in a statement.

"Bharti Airtel will primarily use the proceeds from this sale to reduce its debt," the statement added.

The consolidated debt of the Sunil Mittal-owned company was Rs 91,480 crore as of September 2017.

Like other incumbent operators, the country's largest telecom firm has been locked in a fierce tariff war with newcomer Reliance Jio in the mobile telephony market.

After Tuesday's share sale, the stake of Bharti Airtel and its wholly-owned subsidiaries in Bharti Infratel will come down to 53.51 per cent.

JP Morgan, UBS and Goldman Sachs managed the transaction.

According to BSE data, the promoters' holding in the tower infrastructure company stood at 58 per cent as of September 2017.

Telecom tower companies have been grabbing the headlines over the last few weeks.

Vodafone India and Idea Cellular, which are headed for a merger, said on Monday that they had separately decided to sell their tower businesses in India to ATC Telecom Infrastructure for Rs 7,850 crore.

Late last month, Bharti Airtel had said that a few "reputed" global investors had approached it for buying a controlling stake in Bharti Infratel, which, in turn, had just announced that it would explore acquiring more stake in joint venture Indus Towers.

Bharti Infratel and Vodafone India hold 42 per cent stake in Indus Towers and the rest is held by Idea Cellular.


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