Bharti Airtel looking at Vietnam expansion

16 Aug 2007

Bharti Airtel, India’s largest mobile operator by subscribers, is exploring the possibility of launching operations in Vietnam. According to a company official, Bharti would be looking to start a new company there, rather than buying a stake in an existing operation. Vietnam’s telecom sector is being opened up following the country’s accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), resulting in a number of global telecom firms looking to take a piece of the burgeoning cellular market, which according to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database was over 22 million subscribers strong at the end of March 2007, and growing fast. Currently, no foreign investor is permitted to buy more than 49% of any Vietnamese firm, and in the involvement of outside companies in the wireless market is restricted to business cooperation contracts (BCCs), which allow overseas operators to invest in a state-run enterprise and receive a share of its profits for between five and 15 years. However, by late 2008 or early 2009 foreign companies will be allowed to enter joint ventures with domestic partners, and after 2010 wholly-owned foreign ventures will be permitted to set up in the mobile market. UK’s Vodafone, France Telecom and Norway’s Telenor have all recently opened offices in Vietnam to explore opportunities of setting up operations here.

Vietnam, Bharti Airtel