Struggling to keep up the pace with the Reliance Jio's aggressive approach in the domestic telecom market, Bharti Airtel Ltd. is now planning to put in additional efforts to ramp up its operation in Africa. Financial daily Mint has reported that Airtel has decided to invest around $ 2.4 billion to expand its high-speed 4G data network across the African continent.
Airtel, which is among the only three telecom operators that survived the consolidation wave in the telecom sector, also plans for an initial public offering for its Africa unit. It is to be noted that the Sunil Mittal-led company has already raised $1.25 billion in pre-IPO fundraising from large investors.
One of the people aware of the development said: "Africa has good prospects. Data is just about starting in Africa. We will take a lead in 4G in Africa. Bharti will spend about $700-800 million a year over 2-3 years to expand 4G services and this money will come from the Africa operations itself."
Bharti Airtel operates in Africa as Airtel Africa which is the holding company for formers' operations in 14 countries in the continent. It offers 4G services in 10 out of 14 nations it operates in Africa. It seems Airtel does not want to miss the bus in Africa. Reliance Jio entirely changed the picture in the Indian telecom sector by strategising around data rather than voice, a move which caught its competitors off guard.
Now with the current plans to infuse a capital of worth $2.4 billion, Bharti Airtel is looking to take its main continental rival South Africa's MTN head on. Bharti entered the African market in 2010 after buying Kuwait-based Zain's Africa operations for $10.7 billion.
Expanding its local business
"MTN is very strong in Africa, but Bharti is beating them everywhere now on an incremental revenue basis. It's number two in Nigeria. The aim is to be number one or a strong number two in every country in Africa," the person privy to the development further said.
In recent years, Bharti Airtel has been looking at expanding its local business with small ticket acquisitions in which it took over a small operation in Uganda, Congo Brazzaville and Kenya. Since its entry, Bharti Airtel has invested close to $8 billion in Africa. Last year, it announced that it would consider an IPO for the Africa business.