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Airtel lists African unit, but slips to third in India

Airtel lists African unit, but slips to third in India

Bharti Airtel is pressing ahead with listing Airtel Africa on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) as its subscriber numbers take a hit in its home market.

The operator group is listing at least 25% of its holding in Airtel Africa, and may list an additional 15% via an over-allotment but will disclose this in “due course”. It is hoping to raise around $750 million from the listing, which it intends to spend on easing its $5 billion debt burden. It may also list its operations in Nigeria.

Last week, Airtel formally applied to list the unit on the LSE, confirming a longstanding expectation. Airtel Africa provides telecommunications and financial services in 14 African countries. At the end of last year, the unit was able to generate $1.25 billion of funds to bolster $200 million already received from the Qatar Investment Authority.

However, while Airtel’s fortunes in Africa are improving, it has lost ground in its home market of India. In the first quarter of 2019, its local Bharti Airtel business was pushed into third place by Reliance Jio after seeing its subscriber numbers fall by 7.1% year-on-year.

The operator reported finishing its fiscal Q4 (end-March) with 282.6 million subscribers – significantly behind Jio’s 307 million and market leader Vodafone Idea’s 334 million. Nonetheless, the subscriber exodus had stemmed within the quarter, with sequential losses just 0.6%.

Airtel’s India and South Asia MD and CEO Gopal Vittal trumpeted the positives, noting that data usage had increased by 140% year-on-year, and ARPU was up to INR123 ($1.77). He noted that the latter figure was nonetheless “still not at sustainable levels for the industry.”

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