Citing the need to cut debt and make its biggest overseas acquisition profitable, India’s largest mobile-phone operator, Bharti Airtel Ltd. is considering mergers or stake sales at some of its Africa operations.
The Chairman, Sunil Bharti Mittal, who stated this in an interview with Bloomberg, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, said some of the firm’s businesses in 15 African nations would be affected.
This could result in job cuts at various levels and shrinking of businesses in countries of operations on the continent including Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Seychelles, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
Mittal further said that the cut in operations in the continent could be completed within a year. Faced with an escalating price war in its home market, Bharti is looking for ways to pare net debt equivalent to about $12 billion as of September.
The company has sold its Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso operations, as well as some of its tower businesses, as it reorganises assets it bought in 2010 in a $9 billion deal with Kuwait’s largest mobile-phone operator, Zain.
Bharti’s African unit lost $91 million in the quarter ended September, compared with a $170 million loss in the previous year. As part of the debt alleviation, Bharti is also considering selling a stake in Bharti Infratel Ltd., its tower unit.
The Bharti Chairman disclosed that a committee was studying whether the sale would be a minority stake or control of the tower unit, adding that a decision could be taken in a month.