“We are looking to Bangladesh because we have an interest in the SAARC region,” Bharti Enterprises Deputy Group CEO and Managing Director Akhil Gupta said. He declined to comment on reports in the media quoting Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) Chairman Zia Ahmed that Bharti Airtel is looking to pick up 70 per cent stake in Warid Telecom’s Bangladesh unit.
The deal is likely to be $900 million (about Rs 4,200 crore). Bharti Airtel stated, “We keep evaluating international expansion opportunities from time to time.”
SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) region comprises Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. Bharti Airtel has mobile operations in Sri Lanka.
Till October-end, Warid Telecom Bangladesh was the fourth-largest operator in the country with 2.79 million subscribers. Grameen Phone occupied the top slot with 22.30 million users, followed by Orascom Telecom Bangladesh with 12.27 million and Axiata (Bangladesh) 10.99 million. The country has 30 per cent penetration rate with 47.97 million mobile phone users, BTRC’s July 2009 report stated.
Warid Telecom, a joint venture between Abu Dhabi Group and SingTel, has operations in Pakistan and will start its operations in Uganda and Congo. SingTel holds 30 per cent stake in Warid Telecom Pakistan and 30.5 per cent in Bharti Telecom.
An email sent to Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission and Warid Telecom’s Bangladesh office went unanswered.