India’s largest mobile operator Bharti Airtel dropped plans to sell a controlling interest in its mobile tower company Bharti Infratel, but will offload a near 22 per cent stake The Economic Times (ET) reported.
Airtel, with a 24 per cent market share, said in a regulatory filing its board opted not to sell a controlling stake.
In October private equity firm KKR and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board reportedly were looking to acquire a “significant stake” in the tower unit.
Airtel is seeking to raise funds to boost network investment to compete with 4G newcomer Reliance Jio, which launched its 4G service nationwide in early September. Infratel has a market capitalisation of about INR658 billion ($9.8 billion).
ET said Airtel will sell or transfer 400 million shares of Infratel to its wholly-owned subsidiary Nettle Infrastructure Investments or to a potential investor. After the transfer, Airtel will have a 50.33 interest, Nettle or a new investor will have a 21.63 per cent stake, and other shareholders will hold the remaining 28.04 per cent.
While Airtel’s net profit for the quarter ending 31 December fell 54.6 per cent to INR5.04 billion, Infratel’s net profit increased 25 per cent to INR6.20 billion in its fiscal Q3, on revenue of IN$34 billion, which was up 9.5 per cent.
Infratel also has a 42 per cent stake in Indus Towers, India’s largest telecoms tower company, which is a joint venture between the country’s three largest mobile operators – Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular. Including the tower venture, Infratel has about 90,000 towers across the country.
Airtel isn’t the only operator looking to raise money by selling off tower assets. Reliance Communications agreed in October to a non-binding pact to sell a 51 per cent stake in its tower assets to Canada’s Brookfield Infrastructure Group for a consideration which includes an upfront cash payment of INR110 billion.
Third ranked Idea said in November it aims to sell its tower unit for an estimated $1 billion, after dropping earlier plans to sell a minority stake.