Bharti Airtel is currently in negotiations with Etisalat regarding the sale of its operations in Sri Lanka.
Currently Airtel is the smallest operator in Sri Lanka with 1.7 million connections. Etisalat’s operation meanwhile is third place with 5.0 million connections, putting it ahead of Hutchison’s Hutch (3.5 million) but behind Mobitel (5.3 million) and Axiata subsidiary Dialog (8.3 million).
If Etisalat were to acquire Bharti Airtel Lanka, the resulting entity would be catapulted into second place with 6.7 million connections. The Airtel operation has been valued between $110 million and $130 million.
Bharti Airtel Lanka has received significant investment but has continued to operate at a loss, with no substantial increase in connections for a number of consecutive quarters.
The operator entered the market in 2009 to a hostile environment – at least originally, incumbent operators would not interconnect with its network due to a belief that Bharti’s Indian dominance would see it take over the Sri Lankan market.