Bharti Airtel linked with Etisalat Nigeria bid

James Pearce
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Reports form India claim Bharti Airtel is looking to merge its Nigerian arm with embattled 9mobile, which has rebranded from Etisalat Nigeria following financial problems

Bharti Airtel has reportedly emerged as a potential bidder for Etisalat Nigeria, now officially rebranded as 9mobile, as the Indian firm looks to boost its assets in the African country.

Nigeria is Bharti’s largest African market, generating around 30% of its revenues in the region, and the collapse of Etisalat Nigeria – and the withdrawal of Etisalat itself – is seen as a potential opportunity for consolidation, the Economic Times of India claims.

Chairman Sunil Mittal has previously spoken of the potential for mergers in some of its African assets as part of a rationalisation plan. Despite being a major market, Bharti’s unit has not broken into the top two operators in Nigeria since it bought Zain Group’s sub-Saharan Africa assets.  Acquiring 9mobile would see it leapfrog Globacom and give it the clout to compete with market leader MTN.

“Nigeria is Bharti’s largest Africa market where a potential consolidation opportunity is arising with Etisalat Nigeria looking for buyers after having failed to service debt obligations,” said Bank of America Merrill Lynch in a note to clients, a copy of which was seen by ET. 

Bharti isn’t the only telco to be linked to a bid, however, with both Orange and Vodafone reportedly linked to a bit at the beginning of July.

It follow a total collapse at the company after it failed to pay a $1.2 billion loan owed to local Nigerian financiers. Emerging Markets Telecommunication Services, which had been operating under the Etisalat brand, was then forced to change its branding as Etisalat Group terminated its management agreement with the firm.