Bharti Airtel said it sold a 10.3 percent stake in its telecom tower unit Bharti Infratel to US private equity firm KKR & Co LP and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board for more than Rs 6,190 crore ($952.75 million). Bharti Airtel will use the funds primarily to reduce its debt, the company said in Tuesday’s statement.
After closing the deal, Bharti’s stake in Infratel will stand at 61.7 percent, while KKR and Canada Pension will own 10.3 percent.
Last week, Airtel said it would buy internet services provider Tikona Digital Networks’ 4G business in a deal worth Rs 1600 crore ($244.20 million). The deal includes acquisition of Tikona’s Broadband Wireless Access spectrum and 350 sites in five telecom circles.
Britain’s Vodafone Group and Idea Cellular agreed last Monday to merge their Indian operations in a $23 billion deal, creating the country’s biggest telecoms business after the entry of a new rival sparked a brutal price war.
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The combined entity would have almost 400 million customers, overtaking market leader Bharti Airtel to account for about 40 percent of revenue of the world’s second-biggest mobile phone services market by users after China.
The deal shows how India’s mobile industry is being transformed by the launch of Reliance Jio Infocomm’s 4G mobile broadband network last year.
Built at a cost of more than $20 billion by India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, Jio has offered free services for months. That has forced India’s three biggest operators – Bharti, Vodafone and Idea – to slash prices and accept lower profits, and sparked a wave of consolidation.
Analysts have said Jio’s entry is the catalyst for mergers and exits of some foreign players. Bharti Airtel is in the process of buying Telenor’s India operations, while two smaller players controlled by Malaysia’s Maxis and Russia’s Sistema are merging their operations with Reliance Communications’ wireless unit.