Indian operators aren’t just selling stakes it seems; they’re also buying them. A number of Indian news media outlets have reported that Bharti Airtel has now upped its stake in Bangladesh operator Robi Axiata.
More precisely, Bharti International (Singapore) Pte Ltd, which is a wholly owned arm of Bharti Airtel, has acquired the 6.3 percent stake in Robi Axiata formerly owned by NTT DoCoMo, although the price paid in this all-cash deal has not been announced.
Robi Axiata Limited is a subsidiary company of the Asian telecom giant Axiata Group Berhad, based in Malaysia. Axiata has a controlling 68.7 percent stake in Robi Axiata. Bharti now owns the remaining 31.3 percent.
The transaction has reportedly been cleared by the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission.
Robi is the second-largest mobile network operator in Bangladesh, with a subscriber base estimated at 46.88 million subscribers at the end of December 2018. Bharti Airtel merged its Bangladesh unit with Robi in November 2016. At the time, Airtel had less than a seven per cent market share in the country and was the fourth-largest of eight players. The merger created Bangladesh’s second-largest player, behind market leader Grameenphone.
Bharti has been in the news recently as an investment opportunity as well as an investor. Bharti Telecom recently sold 2.75 percent of Bharti Airtel to a group of global investors, raising an estimated $1.15 billion. This sum, however, is modest compared to the close to $13 billion raised in seven recent deals by rival Jio Platforms, which owns Bharti Airtel rival Reliance Jio Infocomm.