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Bharti confirms additional investment in African mobile operations

The founder and CEO of the Indian telecom giant Bharti Group, Sunil Mittal, has announced that the firm will provide a cash injection of US$1 billion this year for its upcoming mobile operations in Africa. The confirmation of the funding follows on from Bharti finally gaining permission from the regulators in all of the 16 African countries in which it operates.

Last year, Bharti Airtel bought all of the African assets held by the Kuwaiti operator Zain for US$10.7 billion, in the largest ever acquisition made by an Indian company. Mittal confirmed that the additional funding would be used on increasing the firm’s presence in its current African markets, saying: "We have already invested US$11 billion here and have committed nearly US$1 billion investment for this year for expansion of our [African] networks."

However, he also noted that Bharti was unlikely to move into other African markets, saying: "At the moment we are focusing on our 16 countries and for any future expansion in Africa, we will see as the opportunities come, as there is nothing on the table at the moment."

Bharti posted a net loss of INR480 crore (US$97.7 million) for its African assets in the last fiscal year, with revenues of INR13,083 crore (US$3 billion). At the end of FY2010-11, the African operations had 44.2 million subscribers with an ARPU of US$7.2.

Although the majority of Bharti’s African operators are performing encouragingly, Mittal noted the need to expand in several markets, saying: “Out of [the] 16 countries, many are very profitable; most of them are profitable. As far as Africa is concerned, we have to grow in Nigeria, we have to grow in Ghana, Uganda, Kenya - there are few countries where we have to step up."

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