Singtel to sell 3.3% stake in Bharti Airtel for $2.25 billion

A Bharti Airtel office building is pictured in Gurugram, previously known as Gurgaon, on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, on April 21, 2016.
PHOTO: Reuters

BENGALURU – Singapore Telecommunications Ltd said on Thursday (Aug 25) it would sell a 3.3 per cent stake in India's Bharti Airtel Ltd to Bharti Telecom Ltd for an aggregate consideration of about $2.25 billion.

Singtel, southeast Asia's largest telecom firm, said its units Pastel Ltd and Viridian Ltd would together sell 198 million shares they hold in India's second-biggest telecom operator.

Shares of Bharti Airtel rose as much as 2.1 per cent after the announcement.

"Markets didn't take the news very badly, in the sense it (the sale) is not happening in the open market, which is positive news," said Ambit Capital analyst Vivekanand Subbaraman.

Bharti Airtel competes with Vodafone Idea and Mukesh Ambani-backed Reliance Jio in the cut throat telecoms market in India, currently in the race to spearhead the next generation 5G rollout in the country.

Proceeds from the sale may be used to reduce the group's debt and fund 5G capital expenditures and growth initiatives, Singtel said.

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Airtel has been raising money to fund its digital ambitions, including developing home broadband, data centres, cloud adoption as it prepares to launch its next-generation 5G services in the country.

Singtel said last month it would sell its loss-making digital marketing arm Amobee for US$239 million (S$332 million), monetised a 1.6 per cent stake in Airtel Africa for about $150 million in March, and sold a 70 per cent stake in its Australian tower network for A$1.9 billion (S$1.8 billion) last year. 

After the stake sale, Singtel's effective holding in Bharti Airtel will fall to 29.7 per cent, it added.