Bharti Is Said to Weigh Sale of $350 Million Infratel Stake

  • India’s biggest wireless carrier seeks to cut net debt
  • Market faces intense competition after entry of new operator

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Bharti Airtel Ltd., India’s largest wireless carrier, is considering selling about a 3 percent stake in its tower unit through an institutional share sale, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The New Delhi-based company could pare its holding in Bharti Infratel Ltd. as soon as this month, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private. Bharti Airtel is weighing the sale to cut its net debt, one of the people said. The shares are worth about 22.4 billion rupees ($350 million) based on Tuesday’s closing price, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Shares of Bharti Infratel fell as much as 1.9 percent Wednesday. They were trading down 1.4 percent to 398.05 rupees at 3:19 p.m. in Mumbai, on track for the lowest close in a month. The benchmark S&P BSE Sensex declined 0.3 percent.

Competition has been intensifying in the world’s second-largest smartphone market, as the entry of a new operator backed by billionaire Mukesh Ambani prompted rivals to slash tariffs and consolidate. A planned combination of Vodafone Group Plc’s Indian unit with Idea Cellular Ltd. will topple Airtel as the dominant mobile-phone operator in the nation.

No final decisions have been made, and there’s no certainty the deliberations will result in a transaction, the people said. A spokesman for Bharti Airtel declined to comment.

Bharti Airtel had 878.4 billion rupees of net debt at the end of June, according to company filings. In March, a consortium of KKR & Co. and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board bought a 10.3 percent in its tower unit for 61.93 billion rupees.

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