SINGTEL CONSOLIDATES HOLDING IN BHARTI AIRTEL AHEAD OF SPECTRUM AUCTIONS

NEW DELHI (TIP): Singapore Telecommunications (Singtel), the largest shareholder in Bharti Airtel, is consolidating its equity in the country’s top mobile operator by buying out Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund Temasek’s holding for $659.5 million (over Rs 4,400 crore).

The acquisition will see Singtel acquire Temasek’s 7.39%holding in Bharti Telecom, the holding company for the Sunil Mittal-led mobile company. The Mittal family has 51%stake in Bharti Telecom while Singtel holds 39%. Temasek is now transferring its holding to Singtel as part of a strategy to bring all telecom assets worldwide under the Singapore government entity.

Bharti Telecom commands a 45.09% share in Bharti Airtel.

Post the acquisition, Singtel’s direct and indirect (through Bharti Telecom) holding in Bharti Airtel will go up by 3.3% to 36.2% from the existing 32.9%.

The investments in Bharti Airtel comes as part of Singtel’s $1.8 billion push for consolidating its holding in the Indian telecom company as well as Thailand’s Intouch Holdings Pcl, which is the biggest shareholder in the country’s largest mobile operator Advanced Info Services (AIS).

“Singtel has been a strategic partner to both AIS and Airtel for more than 15 years. We have built deep and trusted relationships, worked well together through the years, sharing knowledge and expertise and we have grown together, from strength to strength,” Chua Sock Koong, Singtel Group CEO, said.

“Today, they have a combined mobile customer base of more than 380 million across Asia and Africa. This is a unique opportunity for us to deepen our relationships with two great market leaders,” she said.

Singtel said that India and Thailand are “fundamentally attractive markets” which are reaping the benefits of rapidly increasing smartphone penetration and mobile data adoption by a growing middle class.

It said that both the companies are well-positioned to benefit from the trends. “The recent mobile spectrum auctions in Thailand and ongoing industry consolidation in India have strengthened their competitive positions. They have also built for the future, securing significant spectrum for the long term and investing extensively in 3G and 4G networks and services.”

Chua said that Thailand, India and Africa continue to be attractive, high-growth markets for the company. “As a Group, we enjoy great synergies, economies of scale, and collaborative innovation.”

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