Bharti Airtel is now reviving its plan to sell its Bangladesh and Sri Lanka operations and has appointed two bankers to conduct the sale, Indian television channel CNBC-TV18 reported.
The largest telecom operator in India plans to separate the tower business from the company and sell it first and the whole operation later, as part of a strategy to shun unproductive operations, according to the CNBC report.
The operator started looking for buyers for its operations in the two countries in 2012-13, but it was too early to get any buyer then, according to the report televised on August 18.
Of the interested buyers, Etisalat and Orange have already sent their expressions of interest to buy the telecom business, CNBC-TV18 said.
PD Sarma, chief executive officer of Airtel Bangladesh, dismissed the report as speculative.
“I have talked with my group officials and these are all speculative,” he told The Daily Star by phone.
Officials of Airtel Bangladesh yesterday said they have seen this type of speculation in the last couple of years.
Currently, Airtel Bangladesh has 4,000 towers and set up a separate company for the tower business, which has not yet started operations, they said.
Bharti Airtel has 2,500 towers in Sri Lanka and has already sold its business in Africa, according to the report.
The company bought a 70 percent stake in Warid Telecom in Bangladesh for $100,000 in January 2010, prompting the office of the Comptroller and Auditor General of Bangladesh to raise questions about the deal price.
In 2013, Airtel bought the rest of the shares at $85 million, according to the transaction documents.
On Friday, Bombay Stock Exchange sought a clarification from Bharti Airtel about the possible sale of the operations.
Hours after the query, the operator replied: “Bharti Airtel keeps evaluating various opportunities, on an ongoing basis in ordinary course of business.”
Airtel has 87.43 lakh active subscribers as of June with a 6.89 percent market share.