Bharti creates international business group

Operator eyes developing markets as it forges deal with Abu Dhabi Group and establishes a unit to focus on global expansion

Tags: Bharti AirtelIndiaMergers and acquisitionsUnited Arab EmiratesWarid Telecom
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Bharti creates international business group The new unit will focus on expansion outside of South Asisa. (Getty Images)
By  Roger Field Published  January 16, 2010

Bharti Airtel, India's biggest mobile operator by subscriber numbers, has created a business unit to focus on expansion in emerging markets beyond India and South Asia.

The development comes just days after the company inked a deal to acquire a 70% stake in Warid Telecom's operation in Bangladesh for an investment of some $300 million, a move that appeared to signal the start of a close working relationship between Bharti and Warid's owner, the UAE's Abu Dhabi Group.

Bharti said the new division would be responsible for expanding the company's operations beyond India and South Asia. Manoj Kohli, who is currently Bharti's CEO for India and South Asia, will head the international business group as CEO of the division, and also retain his position as joint managing director of the firm.

This week's deal between Bharti and the Abu Dhabi Group also appears to fit into a broader strategy of international expansion. Speaking after the announcement of the deal on Tuesday, Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman of Bharti Airtel, told the Financial Times that he planned to team up with Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, head of the Abu Dhabi Group, to look at further possible acquisition targets in emerging markets.

"We are starting a relationship with Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan of Abu Dhabi and the Abu Dhabi Group, which will retain 30% [of Warid] and still be on the board. This will be a good alliance in the Middle East for Bharti," Mittal told the Financial Times.

An alliance between the Bharti and Abu Dhabi Group and could prove fruitful, by combining Bharti's expertise of making a sound business case from notoriously low ARPU telecom markets with the latter's access to funds.

Bharti's renewed focus on international markets follows closely from its failed attempt to acquire South Africa's MTN Group last year.

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