In­dia’s Air­tel sells $508m stake amid Jio fight

Kuwait Times - - Business -

MUM­BAI: Indian tele­com gi­ant Bharti Air­tel sold a half-bil­lion-dol­lar stake in its mo­bile tower busi­ness yes­ter­day to help shrink its debts as it reels from a price war sparked by ri­val Reliance Jio. Air­tel, which re­cently re­ported a 77 per­cent slump in quar­terly prof­its, said in a state­ment that it had sold 83 mil­lion shares worth 33.25 bil­lion ru­pees ($508 mil­lion) in Bharti In­fratel.

“Bharti Air­tel will pri­mar­ily use the pro­ceeds from this sale to re­duce its debt,” the com­pany said in a fil­ing to the Bom­bay Stock Ex­change in In­dia’s fi­nan­cial cap­i­tal Mum­bai.

The shares were bought by global in­vestors and fund man­agers, the state­ment added. It came a day af­ter Idea Cel­lu­lar and Voda­fone In­dia an­nounced the sale of 20,000 mo­bile phone towers to Amer­i­can Tower Corp for 78.5 bil­lion ru­pees as it seeks funds to fend off Jio, which is owned by In­dia’s rich­est man. Idea and Voda­fone’s Indian unit are cur­rently merg­ing in a move that will see them over­take Air­tel as In­dia’s largest tele­coms op­er­a­tor with more than 400 mil­lion sub­scribers.

In­dia’s multi-bil­lion-dol­lar tele­coms in­dus­try has been in a state of flux since Mukesh Am­bani launched Jio in Septem­ber 2016, promis­ing re­duced tar­iffs and free voice calls for life.

Jio’s ar­rival has sparked a rush to mar­ket con­sol­i­da­tion as com­peti­tors try to match the deep pock­ets of Jio, which is backed by Am­bani’s hugely wealthy en­ergy-to-chem­i­cals con­glom­er­ate Reliance In­dus­tries. Last month Air­tel re­ported that its con­sol­i­dated net profit for the quar­ter end­ing Septem­ber had fallen 77 per­cent on-year. It said its debt stood at 914.8 bil­lion ru­pees. —AFP

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