Bharti gets nod to invest $300m in Warid Telecom; to buy 70%



Bharti gets nod to invest $300m in Warid Telecom; to buy 70% Dhaka: Bharti Airtel, India's number one cellular operator today received the nod from Bangladesh's telecom regulator to purchase 70 per cent stake in Warid Telecom and to invest 300 million dollars in the company.

"The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has approved Airtel's proposed USD 300 million investment to buy Abu Dhabi group's 70 per cent stake in the Warid Telecom, BTRC Chairman Zia Ahmed said.

A Bharti Airtel spokesperson said the company keeps on pursuing international opportunities.

This will enable Bharti Airtel to enter the lucrative neighbourhood market. The nod comes after six months of pursuit since the Abu Dhabi group put its stake on sale.

Ahmed said Airtel would take over 70 per cent stake in Warid by creating new shares possibly at a nominal price.

"The BTRC has given the go-ahead to transfer Abu Dhabi group's shares in Warid Telecom to Bharti Airtel," Zia said.

The purchase will make Bharti the newest foreign company to make inroads into the fast-growing Bangladesh mobile market. Launched in 2007, Warid has nearly three million subscribers in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh has till October 2009, 52 million mobile subscribers which is expected to rise to 100 million by 2015.

Airtel is the fourth foreign company to enter the Bangladesh market. Egyptian mobile operator Orascom has taken over Sheba while Singapore's state-owned Singtel has bought 45 per cent stake in Bangladesh Telecom.

Airtel's move into Bangladesh's market comes after its plan to buy a stake in South Africa's MTN collapsed in September last year as Pretoria said such a merger could lead to MTN losing its national character.

Warid is the sixth-largest mobile phone operator in Bangladesh and has so far invested USD 600 million in its business.

Zia Ahmed said "We hope Airtel's investments would cross USD one billion in the next few years."

PTI