Bharti, carriers in infrastructure sharing talks

Melissa Chua
09 Jun 2011

Bharti Airtel is in talks with Etisalat, MTN, France Telecom, Millicom and Vodafone for an infrastructure sharing deal in Africa.

Bharti’s CEO for international operations Manjoh Kohli told the Economic Times that negotiations have begun regarding the sharing of infrastructure such as towers and fiber in Africa.

Bharti is attempting a similar model to that of India’s Indus Towers, whose stakes are shared between Bharti, Vodafone Essar and Idea Cellular. Bharti and Vodafone each hold a 42% stake in the tower company, with Idea holding the rest.

But Kohli said it was too early to tell whether this model can be exported to Africa.

This update from Kohli follows reports from February that Bharti plans to create 16 tower companies in Africa to augment its operations in the continent.

Kohli added Bharti’s priority was to turnaround its African operations and immediate acquisitions in Africa were not on the agenda.

Bharti’s Africa business, which it acquired from Kuwait’s Zain in a $9.7 billion deal last year, has been dragging its profit. Bharti’s full year profit fell 33% due to continued losses at some of its African units.

Kohli said Bharti had completed key goals such as integration of operations and outsourcing of key functions in its Africa business, and was on track to meet its targets of $5 billion in revenue, $2 billion in EBIDTA and 100 million subscribers by March 2013. Bharti had last month announced its decision to invest a further $1 billion into its Africa business.

Kohli added Bharti’s immediate plans were to launch 3G and m-commerce services in all its African units by next year.

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