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Banks circling Airtel as African IPO rumours swirl

Banks circling Airtel as African IPO rumours swirl

Several banks are reportedly holding informal talks with Bharti Airtel regarding proposals related to its prospective IPO on its African operations.

Reportedly, at least five banks have approached the operator – which has not yet requested any formal plans - to discuss valuations and listing locations (Airtel is believed to favour listing on the London Stock Exchange). The interested parties include Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Barclays and UBS.

In February this year, Bharti Airtel International (BAIN) – the holding firm which manages the Indian operator’s African business – confirmed that it was looking into a possible IPO for the unit with a potential valuation of US$6.6 billion. This would be roughly six times its EBITDA, although with the group’s roughly $5.5 billion net debt, its equity valuation would therefore be around $1.1 billion.

In December, Bharti chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal shot down suggestions that the group would pull out of Africa as he announced that Airtel was acquiring Millicom’s Tigo Rwanda unit. However, the Indian market leader has faced an uphill battle in Africa since it obtained Zain’s African operations in 2010. Airtel has sold its tower infrastructure in the continent and divested operations in markets such as Burkino Faso and Sierra Leone.

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