Africa deal makes Bharti world’s 5th largest telecom firm

New Delhi, June 8(IANS) India’s top telecom player Bharti Airtel Tuesday said it has successfully concluded its $10.7-billion deal to acquire the African assets of Kuwait’s Zain, making it the world’s fifth largest mobile phone services company.

This is also the largest overseas acquisition of assets in Africa by an Indian company, even though it does not cover the Kuwaiti company’s operations in Sudan and Morocco. The total customer base of Bharti now stands at over 180 million in 18 countries.

This was Bharti’s third attempt to enter the largely untapped African market after the failure of merger pacts with South African telecom major MTN on two occasions. Africa accounts for a little over 60 percent of Zain’s 71.8 million customers.

The shares of Bharti Airtel, however, were 3.51 percent down at Rs.258.50 on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE).

‘Bharti is now among the five largest mobile operators in the world. This will further strengthen the historic Indo-Africa economic and social ties and provide a big boost to South-South cooperation,’ said group chairman Sunil Mittal.

The African countries in which assets have been acquired are Burkina Faso, Chad, Congo Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.

Zain is the market leader in 10 of the 15 countries and second in four countries, the company said.

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