Bharti Airtel is investigating the sale or merger of some of its African interests in an attempt to cut a $12 billion debt pile, chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal (pictured) said in an interview with BloombergQuint.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Mittal said the company could reduce its footprint in the continent within a year, but did not specify how many of the company’s units on the continent would be impacted by the move.
Airtel currently operates across 15 African markets including Nigeria, Kenya and Rwanda.
In addition to the cuts in its Africa business, during October reports emerged the company was investigating the possibility of selling part, or all, of its stake in the company’s tower unit Bharti Infratel.
The attempt to cut costs follows a series of quarterly losses in its African unit and an increase in competition in its home market of India, where it is the country’s largest operator.
The launch of services by new challenger Reliance Jio in India, alongside its free offers to customers, have led to a fierce price war between itself and Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular. Greater competition, alongside reduced margins from their own price reductions have led to financial analysts predicting a potential revenue reduction for incumbents of up to seven per cent over the next two quarters.