Indian telecommunications giant Bharti Airtel has requested several banks to deliver a pitch with regards to a possible Initial Public Offer (IPO) of its holding company for Africa. Some of the finance houses reportedly involved include Barclays, Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BOAML) and UBS.
Bye, Bye Africa?
An Initial Public Offer (IPO) would serve as an exit strategy for what has been a difficult sojourn for the Indian Telco. Bharti founder Sunil Mittal last year admitted regret over a rushed move into the continent.
“We all must have made lots of mistakes. Lots of decisions, when you look back, I wish they were better thought through. But If you pin me down to one, I would say in 2010 our decision to go to Africa was a bit rushed and that has taken six-seven-eight years and lot of resources and my personal time to fix that.”
Mittal also stated that Bharti would have been better off had it focused its resources on its home market. In what was one of the biggest transactions by an Indian telecommunications firm, Bharti bought the African operations of Kuwait based Zain in April 2010 in a transaction valued at $10.2 billion. The deal was mostly funded by an $8.3 billion loan from a consortium of banks.
Bharti has since attempted to unwind its investment by selling its communication towers and several country operations. Airtel Ghana was merged with domestic rival Tigo in November 2017. Bharti also bought 100% of the parent firm of Tigo Rwanda. Tigo was owned by Millicom International.
In Nigeria, Airtel has recorded some measure of success as it currently runs head to head with Globacom for the 2nd place position in terms of the number of subscribers. Airtel Nigeria had 38.3 million subscribers as at January 2018.