The Tanzanian government, a 40 per cent shareholder in joint venture Airtel Tanzania, has opposed Bharti Airtel’s plan for an initial public offering in an international market for its African business.
The Indian company holds the balance in the joint venture.
A statement of the treasury registrar of the government, reported in local newspapers, said it did not recognise the plan to invite new shareholders in the holding company Airtel Africa, in which the Tanzanian joint venture is a subsidiary.
The Tanzanian government has said, as a shareholder, it should have been involved in a decision to sell shares and that it was not lawful for Bharti Airtel to make such a decision without the approval of its co-shareholders.
Responding to the government, the Airtel spokesperson said: “Airtel has communicated to the Tanzania regulator on October 24 the intent to undertake an initial public offering (IPO) on an international stock exchange for Airtel Africa Ltd (a UK-incorporated company), the holding company of the 14 Africa-operating countries. This includes, as an intermediate step, completing a pre-IPO primary equity round with six major global investors.
“Airtel has not sold existing shares and will continue to control its operations in Africa. The funding by the investors will be used to pay Airtel’s debt in Africa, enable expanding network coverage, adding telecom capacities, and expanding mobile money operations across 14 countries including Tanzania.”
“There has been no change in the shareholding in either Airtel Tanzania or Bharti Airtel Tanzania BV and the control of Airtel Tanzania will continue to be exercised by Airtel as earlier. We are in dialogue with the Government of Tanzania for additional clarifications.”
Just a few days ago Bharti Airtel announced it was getting six marquee investors to put $1.25 billion in its fully owned subsidiary.
It also said an IPO would follow. The move would enable the telecom company to cut its consolidated debt by over 8 per cent. The key investors included Warburg Pincus, Temasek , Singtel and SoftBank.
Bharti issued a statement a few days ago that the proposed IPO was on track and preparations were proceeding according to plan.
The Tanzanian business is part of Airtel’s East African business, for which its subscriber base is not divulged separately.