Indian-backed Bharti Airtel is once more rumoured to be in talks to merge its Sri Lankan unit with Dialog Axiata, the country’s largest mobile operator by subscribers. According to the Economic Times, citing people familiar with the matter, Dialog Axiata may issue ordinary shares to Bharti Singapore (wholly owned by Bharti Airtel), making Axiata a dominant shareholder while Airtel will become a minority shareholder. The report cites unnamed sources as saying: ’The negotiations are still on’. Meanwhile, a Bharti spokesperson is said to have commented: ‘There is no development for us to report at this stage.’
As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, in December 2015 Dialog Axiata was believed to be in negotiations to buy fifth-placed player Bharti Airtel Lanka for USD100 million. Later that month Dialog denied it was entering any merger or acquisition deal with Bharti Airtel by saying: ‘The company confirms that it has not entered into an agreement with any party with respect to a merger or acquisition’. The cellco added that it would make a disclosure regarding the matter if it reaches ‘material certainty’.