Bharti's African Odyssey

3:20 PM -- Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL) clearly sees Africa as a market that, like India, can deliver substantial mobile subscriber growth. (See India Ends 2009 on a Mobile High and Mobile Growth Strategies in Africa.)

The Indian carrier, which is currently in exclusive talks to buy Zain Group 's African operations (but not including Morocco and Sudan) in a deal valued at US$10.7 billion, failed in its (second) effort to merge with African carrier MTN Group Ltd. in September 2009. (See Bharti, MTN Abandon $23B Merger.)

If Bharti, India's biggest mobile operator, is successful with its bid, it will need to find $9 billion for the acquisition itself and assume about $1.7 billion in debt.

Zain, which previously attracted interest from Vivendi for its African operations, expects to net $5 billion if the sale takes place. (See Vivendi Wants Zain's African Assets.)

— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

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