Amazon in talks to pick up 5 per cent stake in Bharti Airtel for $2 billion

Our Bureau Mumbai | Updated on June 04, 2020 Published on June 04, 2020

The logo of Amazon   -  REUTERS

Telecom major may need funds to renew spectrum and place bids in 5G auction

Joining the bandwagon of global firms betting on the world’s fastest growing telecom market, has initiated discussions to acquire a 5 per cent stake in Indian telecom operator Bharti Airtel for about $2 billion.

The Seattle-based online retail giant will increase its stake further, depending on the valuations of the initial deal, sources close to the development told BusinessLine.

With a little over 300 million subscribers, Bharti Airtel ranks third in the five-player Indian telecom market.

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The talks between Bharti Airtel and Amazon are at an early stage and the terms of the deal could change as negotiations progress. However, there is no assurance that the discussions will lead to a final deal any time soon, one of the sources added.

It was not clear whether Amazon would buy the stake from Bharti or SingTel, which holds about 35 per cent in Bharti Airtel.

Bharti Airtel would need funds to renew spectrum due to expire in certain circles, and acquire 5G spectrum for expansion of services as and when the government puts it up for auction.

Reuters, quoting sources, was the first to report on Thursday that the companies were in discussions for a stake sale.

READ THE STORY: Google in talks to buy stake in Vodafone Idea

“We routinely work with all digital and OTT players and have deep engagement with them to bring their products, content and services for our wide customer base. Beyond that there is no other activity to report,” an Airtel spokesperson said.

An Amazon spokesperson said the company “does not offer comments on speculation of what we may or may not do in future”.

On the lookout for funds

Domestic telecom companies such as Vodafone Idea Ltd and Jio Platforms have been scouting for funds to expand operations and pare debt. Since April 22, Jio Platforms has raised ₹78,562 crore from investors such as Facebook, Silver Lake, Vista, General Atlantic and KKR.

Earlier, sources said Google had initiated discussions to acquire a stake of up to 5 per cent in Vodafone India. The move, if successful, would also help the US company compete with Facebook in India.

ALSO READ: Is Jio Platforms looking to raise more funds?

Published on June 04, 2020
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