The government of Tanzania has claimed that Bharti Airtel’s proposed IPO of its African operations would be illegal as it was not consulted on the matter despite holding a 40% stake in Airtel Tanzania.
Bharti Airtel holds the remaining 60% of the Tanzanian operation, which is one of 14 that comprise Airtel Africa. The Indian group recently secured investments worth $1.25 billion from several companies, including Singtel and Softbank, which will help it to pay down debt as it readies its African IPO.
Despite the government’s allegations, Business Standard reported that Airtel claims to have notified the relevant authorities of both its recent investment round and its IPO intentions. Additionally, Airtel does not intend to alter the ownership structure of Airtel Tanzania in any way.
The Tanzanian unit of Airtel has been the subject of some controversy before. Towards the end of 2017, the government launched an official probe into whether that unit had been established by its former owner Zain Group using assets that had been sold illegally by the country’s former government.
Airtel maintained its deal had received all necessary approvals, and it was found that the ownership issue dated back to the 2001 privatisation of parts of the Tanzania Telecommunications Company. While no formal announcement was made, it appears the matter was settled after negotiations.