Bharti Airtel has received clearance from India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to sell a 15% stake in its broadcast unit Bharti Telemedia to Lion Meadow Investment.
The $350 million deal was made public in December 2017, and the buyer – an affiliate of Warburg Pincus – was originally slated to acquire a further 5% of Bharti Telemedia from an unnamed affiliate of Bharti Airtel. However, this detail was not mentioned in Bharti’s recent stock exchange statement filing.
Local media outlets have reported that Airtel intends to use the funds to pay down its debt. The operator is facing pressure on all areas of its business from the fierce price war kick-started by the entry of Reliance Jio to the Indian mobile market in September 2016.
Jio’s heavily discounted voice and data tariffs have secured it fourth place in the market, and it is rapidly closing in on its closest rivals Idea Cellular and Vodafone India. It is now turning its attention to the FTTH market, gathering registrations from customers to gauge the areas with the most interest in its gigabit fibre offering.
While Jio has not yet disclosed the exact form that its fibre service will take, it has been promoting bundled TV services as core pillar of the offering. Moving into the triple and quad-play space would align its offering further with Bharti Airtel’s, increasing the pressure on the market leader.