India's Bharti could raise up to $2 bln from Africa tower sale -sources

Reuters

DUBAI, Jan 23 (Reuters) - India's Bharti Airtel plans to sell most of its transmitter towers in Africa, in a process that could raise up to $2 billion for the country's top telecom operator and help reduce its debt burden, banking sources said.

Bharti, which entered Africa with the $9 billion acquisition of Zain's operations on the continent in 2010, has already launched a sale process to offload its towers in Nigeria, two sources familiar with the process said.

"While other telecom operators have sought to offload towers in Africa due to the inherent difficulty in operating them, Bharti has the added reason of reducing their debt burden, most of which was taken up for the Zain acquisition," one of the banking sources said.

"Tower sale deals are always difficult to execute. This is an ongoing process and they would have done a great job if they can sell most of it," the source said.

Indian media this week carried reports referring to Bharti's tower sale.

"As a company policy, we do not comment on market speculation," a Bharti spokesman said.

The company had net debt of 638.4 billion Indian rupees ($10.32 billion) as of March 31, 2013.

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