Bharti Airtel acquires fresh 13.4% in Airtel Nigeria

The company had been enmeshed in a legal tussle with Econet, a stakeholder in Airtel.

Bharti Airtel Limited, the Indian mobile telecommunication operator, on Wednesday announced the acquisition of additional 13.36 per cent equity stake in its wholly owned Nigerian subsidiary, Bharti Airtel Nigeria.

“Bharti Airtel Limited has announced that its wholly-owned subsidiary, Bharti Airtel Nigeria B.V., has acquired an additional 13.36 per cent equity stake in Airtel Networks Limited, Nigeria from “certain existing shareholders,” Bharti Airtel said in its correspondence to the Nigerian Stock Exchange, NSE.

“With this acquisition, Bharti Airtel Nigeria B.V. now owns 79.06 per cent equity stake in Airtel Networks Limited, Nigeria,” it added.

Though the financial details of the acquisition are yet to be made public, the company said the acquisition is to enable it consolidate Airtel’s position over its Nigerian assets.

Airtel’s ownership of the Nigerian entity was entangled in legal battles. Econet Wireless, a five per cent stakeholder in the entity, filed court cases as well as sought damages, after opposing the sale of the Nigerian business.

Bharti Airtel acquired Kuwaiti Telecom Company’s Zain’s African assets in 2010 for $10.7 billion. The company’s African asset are spread across various countries of the continent. It did not reveal the identities of the shareholders from whom it bought the new stake.

The total market of telecom subscribers in Nigeria is around 36 million, and Airtel has around six million subscribers, in the market.

Bharti Airtel, which has over 246 million customers across its operations in Asia and Africa, has around 23 million subscribers in Nigeria with around 20 per cent market share. The total Nigerian market is over 100 million.

Bharti Airtel Nigeria previously held 65.7 per cent stake in Airtel Networks Limited, Nigeria as part of the Zain Africa acquisition programme. But the deal has been enmeshed in a long-drawn legal tussle under arbitration for the past two years.

South Africa-based Econet Wireless, which held a five per cent stake in the entity, had claimed it had the first right of first refusal to buy the stakes in Zain Nigeria and had filed an appeal against Airtel.

In January 2012, the Federal High Court in Lagos had ordered Airtel to reinstate Econet Wireless’ five per cent stake in the company, following which Airtel had immediately filed an appeal against the judgement along with an injunction to stop Econet from exercising its rights as per the court judgment.

A month later, Econet filed a counter affidavit opposing Airtel’s injunction appeal, apart from a suit against Bharti Airtel seeking a $3.1 billion damages over the ownership dispute.

In May 2012, the Federal High Court dismissed Airtel’s stay of execution order, while Bharti Airtel’s appeal was dismissed in October 2012 by the Court.


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