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Fri, Mar 26, 2010 - Page 10 News List

India’s Bharti nears deal with Zain on African assets


India’s top mobile firm, Bharti Airtel, was yesterday poised to clinch a US$10.7 billion deal to buy the African assets of Zain after the Kuwaiti company said the sale would be completed in days.

The deal would be the second-largest foreign takeover in Indian corporate history and give Bharti, led by billionaire entrepreneur Sunil Bharti Mittal, a major footprint in one of the world’s least developed telecom markets.

Zain issued a statement saying the “due diligence process has been completed and the parties are finalizing definitive agreements which are expected to be signed in the coming days.”

Bharti, which failed twice to forge a deal with South Africa’s MTN Group, has been racing to expand abroad amid savage price wars in India’s congested mobile market that have slowed revenues.

A Bharti spokesman said the New Delhi-based company had no immediate statement but expected to make one later yesterday, the day on which an exclusive talks period agreed by the two companies last month was to end.

Zain’s board on Wednesday cleared the sale of most of its African businesses to the Indian company.

The deal would transform Bharti into an emerging market multinational with combined sales of US$13 billion and clients in 15 African countries from Burkina Faso to Zambia.

Shares of Bharti were up 1.14 percent at 310.30 rupees in early afternoon trading, defying an overall falling market.

The proposed takeover, dubbed Bharti’s “African safari” by Indian media, values Zain’s African assets at US$9 billion.

Bharti will also assume Zain’s US$1.7 billion debt, putting the deal value at US$10.7 billion.

Under the agreement, Bharti, which already has 125 million Indian subscribers, would get 42 million new clients in Africa, making it the world’s seventh-largest telecom company.

Zain will hang on to its operations in Sudan and Morocco, while Bharti’s former takeover target MTN would be one of its biggest rivals in Africa.

Last weekend Bharti said it had raised US$8.3 billion to finance the takeover, adding the “financing was oversubscribed, with major international banks committing to underwrite the total amount.”

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