India’s largest mobile network operator by subscribers, Bharti Airtel, has announced that it expects to invest around USD1 billion in Africa this year in order to expand the operations of the wireless operators it acquired from Kuwait-based Zain in a deal valued at USD10.7 billion. According to India’s Economic Times, Bharti chairman Sunil Mittal confirmed the expected expenditure, with the executive noting that further acquisitions in the continent were unlikely in the short term. ‘At the moment we are focussing on our 16 countries and for any future expansion in Africa, we will see as the opportunities come, as there is nothing on the table at the moment.’ Meanwhile, commenting on the profitability of its African subsidiaries, Mr Mittal noted: ‘Out of 16 countries many are very profitable, most of them are profitable. As far as Africa is concerned, we have to grow in Nigeria, we have to grow in Ghana, Uganda, Kenya … these are [a] few countries where we have to step up.’
As noted in TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, in June 2010 Bharti acquired Zain’s operations in 15 countries: Burkina Faso, Chad, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. The Kuwaiti company’s subsidiaries in Morocco and Sudan were not included in the sale. It has since rebranded all of the units with its ‘airtel’ moniker. With it also operating in the Seychelles, as at end-March 2011 Bharti’s total subscriber base in Africa stood at 44.21 million.