Sucheta Dalal :Bharti Airtel to buy 70% in Warid Telecom to invest $300 million
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Bharti Airtel to buy 70% in Warid Telecom, to invest $300 million  

January 5, 2010

Bharti Airtel Ltd, India's number one cellular operator on Tuesday received the nod from Bangladesh's telecom regulator to purchase 70% stake in Warid Telecom and to invest $300 million in the company.


"The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has approved Airtel's proposed $300 million investment to buy Abu Dhabi group's 70% stake in Warid Telecom," BTRC chairman Zia Ahmed said. A Bharti Airtel spokesperson said that the company will keep pursuing international opportunities.


This deal will enable Bharti Airtel to enter the lucrative neighbourhood market. The nod comes after six months of pursuit since the Abu Dhabi group put its stake on sale.


Mr Ahmed said that Airtel would take over 70% stake in Warid by creating new shares possibly at a nominal price.


"The BTRC has given the go-ahead to transfer Abu Dhabi group's shares in Warid Telecom to Bharti Airtel," Mr Ahmed said.


The purchase will make Bharti the newest foreign company to make inroads into the fast-growing Bangladeshi mobile market. Launched in 2007, Warid has nearly three million subscribers in Bangladesh.


Bangladesh has till October 2009, 52 million mobile subscribers, a number expected to rise to 100 million by 2015.


Airtel is the fourth foreign company to enter the Bangladesh market. Egyptian mobile operator Orascom has taken over Sheba while Singapore's State-owned Singtel has bought 45% stake in Bangladesh Telecom.


Airtel's move into Bangladesh's market comes after its plan to buy a stake in South Africa's MTN collapsed in September last year as Pretoria said that such a merger could lead to MTN losing its national character.


Warid is the sixth-largest mobile phone operator in Bangladesh and has so far invested $600 million in its business.


Zia Ahmed said "We hope Airtel's investments would cross $1 billion in the next few years."

Yogesh Sapkale


-- Sucheta Dalal