News From Telecom World

Bharti Airtel keen on Bangladesh

Posted on: October 16, 2008

India’s one of the leading private telecom services providers, Bharti Airtel, has expressed interest to invest in Bangladesh’s mobile phone market, bringing good news to the local market’s struggling performers.

Bharti Airtel is the fifth company after UK-based Vodafone, UAE-based Etisalat, Korean SK Telecom and Russian AFK Sistema to show such intent to invest in Bangladesh.

The global telecom giants are considering investment in the six-player market where most operators are struggling to reach breakeven points.

Any likely merger or acquisition has already been considered by the weak operators as it would be difficult for them to survive without a good financial health amid stiff competition.

The sales of stake in state-run TeleTalk, UAE-based Warid and the country’s lone CDMA operator Citycell have been being discussed for the last few months.

“Airtel showed interest to invest in Bangladesh’s mobile sector,” said Maj Gen (retd) Manzurul Alam, chairman of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), after paying a courtesy call on Manoj Kohli, CEO of Bharti Airtel, on Monday (13 Oct ‘08) on the sidelines of South Asian Telecommunication Regulators’ Council in New Delhi.

“When Airtel showed interest to invest in Bangladesh mobile market, we suggested a pact with any of the existing operators as we are committed not to issue new mobile phone licence anymore,” Manzurul Alam said.

He said the government has decided to sell 30 percent shares in TeleTalk. “If we see a good number of companies are interested to buy the stake, we’ll go through an auction process.”

A listed company, Airtel is based on an aggregate of 71,777,448 customers as on June 30, 2008, consisting of 69,383,716 GSM and 2,393,732 Bharti Telemedia subscribers.

The businesses at Airtel have been structured into three individual strategic business units — mobile services, telemedia services (ATS) and enterprise services. The mobile services group provides GSM services across India in 23 telecom circles, while the ATS business group offers broadband and telephone services to 94 cities.

In July, AFK Sistema, the owning company of Russia’s largest mobile phone operator OAO Mobile TeleSystems, said it was in talks to buy a cellphone firm in Bangladesh.

“We are interested in Bangladeshi market, especially in its mobile phone sector. The mode of entry is under discussion as well. We will continue to work for entering Bangladesh,” said Kirill Semenov, head of international press office of AFK Sistema, in a reply to The Daily Star.

Earlier, Vodafone took part in a bid to buy AKTEL’s 30 percent stake, but failed as Japanese NTT DoComo made the highest bid and bought the stake for $350 million.

Bangladesh’s cellphone market has added 45.4 million subscribers as of August 2008. The telecom penetration rate was 30 percent by the end of 2007.

Source: Daily Star

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