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Bharti Airtel divests Infratel stake for $952M

In a bid to reduce its debt, Bharti Airtel has sold a 10.3% stake in its tower unit Infratel to a group of investors.

Headed by private equity firm KKR and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, the collective of buyers have paid INR61.9 billion ($952 million) for the Infratel holding. Airtel’s board gave the go-ahead for a stake sale in October 2016, and rumours regarding the consortium’s interest in Infratel have circled since then.

While it was initially believed that Airtel was interested in selling a controlling stake in Infratel, reports earlier this month suggested that the firm had revised this stance and was looking to divest a holding of around 22%. Once this new sale goes through, Airtel will hold 61.7% of Infratel, with the company using the funds to lower its debt.

Sunil Bharti Mittal, the chairman of Airtel, said: “This investment by a consortium of marquee, long-term investors underlines the confidence of the global investors in India’s growth story and the government’s Digital India initiative in particular. It further reinforces the positive outlook for the telecom infrastructure sector.”

The deal is the latest in a spate of sales in India, with the CCI (Competition Commission of India) recently approving a deal that will see Canadian investment firm Brookfield Group acquiring 51% of Reliance Communications’ tower business.

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