Bharti Airtel said to plan tower IPO this year

Dylan Bushell-Embling
26 Nov 2012
Daily News

Tower spin-offs are back on the agenda in India, both for incumbent operator Bharti Airtel and for state-owned BSNL.

Bharti Airtel's tower arm Bharti Infratel plans to pull the trigger on an initial public offer by the end of the year, sources told the Financial Times, and expects to raise between $800 million and $900 million from the process.

Management reportedly plans to float around 10% of the company to raise funds and provide a potential exit for its private equity investors. At the predicted price, the company would have a valuation of $9 billion.

Bharti Infratel owns around 34,000 towers outright, and also has a 42% stake in Indus Towers, a joint venture with Vodafone India and Idea Cellular. Indus itself owns over 100,000 towers.

Bharti Airtel is believed to have been considering an IPO for the division since at least mid-2011, but the company has reportedly had to postpone the plan multiple times due to financial market weakness.

Meanwhile, loss-making state-run operator BSNL is pressing ahead with splitting off its own tower business into a separate company.

The operator recently told telecom minister Kapil Sibal that it aims to earn over 16 billion rupees ($288.6 million) in revenue from the business over the next five years, Press Trust of India reported.

Under the hive-off plan, recommended by a committee tasked with helping BSNL stem its losses, the operator may seek to sell a stake in the tower company or pursue its own IPO for the business.

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