India’s Bharti Airtel plans to bid for Millicom International Cellular’s (MIC’s) Sri Lankan mobile subsidiary, in a bid to expand its market share on the island, reports The Economic Times. Bharti Airtel Lanka last month announced that it had signed up a million mobile users since launching in January, and the acquisition of fellow GSM operator Tigo Sri Lanka, currently the country’s third largest cellular provider with approximately 2.2 million users, could see the Indian-backed firm slip into second place ahead of Sri Lanka Telecom’s subsidiary Mobitel. However, Luxembourg-based MIC’s recent announcement that it wants to offload all its mobile assets in Cambodia, Laos and Sri Lanka has generated keen interest from several big-hitters, such as Malaysia’s Axiata (the owner of Sri Lanka’s mobile market leader Dialog Telekom) and Russia’s Vimpelcom, whilst representatives of UAE’s Etisalat are this week visiting Sri Lanka after indicating that a bid for Tigo’s operations is on the cards. According to the Economic Times, Tigo Sri Lanka is worth between USD150 million and USD200 million. An executive privy to the development was quoted as saying that Bharti Airtel was yet to put in a firm bid for the Tigo network but would do so in a couple of weeks. Last month, MIC said it had received expressions of interest for its Asian assets and that it had appointed Goldman Sachs as advisor for the transaction. The company said it may either sell its Asian assets separately or together. A Millicom executive confirmed that several companies had expressed interest in buying its Sri Lankan operations, adding that the company intends to complete as sale in four months.
In unrelated news, Bharti Airtel yesterday announced that it has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the government of Bhutan for building a terrestrial cable network in that country for an undisclosed price.