Business – Bharti to buy B’desh mobile operator
DHAKA: Telecom giant Bharti Airtel is set to buy a 70% stake in Bangladesh’s fourth largest mobile phone operator Warid from its Abu Dhabi-based
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owners, regulators said on Wednesday.
The Dhabi Group, which fully owns Warid, has sought approval from the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission for the sale, commission chairman Zia Ahmed said.
The move makes Bharti the latest foreign firm to make inroads into the Bangladesh mobile phone market, which is one of the country’s fastest growing and potentially lucrative sectors.
“The Dhabi Group informed us on Sunday that it would sell 70% of Warid Telecom shares to Bharti Airtel Ltd. We have sought more papers and the copy of the memorandum of understanding between the two companies,” he said.
Ahmed said the company did not mention how much the stake was valued at but added that Bharti had “initially intended to invest $300 million.”
“I am sure the new investment will inject new momentum into our telecoms sector,” he said.
A spokesman for Warid declined comment on the deal, but an unnamed official from the company told local English language newspaper The Daily Star that the deal was worth 900 million dollars.
Launched in May 2007, Warid is the fourth largest mobile phone operator in Bangladesh, with nearly three million subscribers – out of nearly 52 million overall – at the end of October.
As the industry expands in Bangladesh experts predict subscriptions will pass the 100-million mark by 2015, owing to a price war among the country’s six operators. In 2004, Egyptian Orascom took over Sheba, and Singapore’s state-owned Singtel bought a 45% stake in Bangladesh Telecom in 2005. Last year Japan’s NTT DoCoMo Inc. paid 350 million dollars to buy a 30% stake in operator AKTEL, majority owned by Axiata of Malaysia.
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