Reports today state that India’s Bharti Airtel is set to buy a 70 percent stake in Bangladesh’s fourth-largest operator, Warid Telecom, for around US$900 million. AFP notes that the Dhabi Group, which fully owns Warid, has sought approval from the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission for the sale. According to Wireless Intelligence, Warid has 2.7 million connections, giving it a 5.3 percent share of Bangladesh’s mobile market. AFP reports that Bharti would initially invest around US$300 million in the company.
Bangladesh has proven an attractive hunting ground for foreign operators, mainly in light of its low mobile penetration (31 percent) and potential for growth. Egypt’s Orascom has full ownership of banglalink, Axiata owns 70 percent of Aktel, whilst Telenor controls (62 percent) market leader Grameenphone. A move into Bangladesh for Bharti would represent a shift in focus to smaller targets after its planned US$23 billion merger with South Africa’s MTN failed again this summer. India’s largest mobile operator needs foreign business at a time when it is locked in an intense price war in India with rivals Reliance Communications and Vodafone Essar.