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Mergers & acquisitions

Bharti Secures $10.7B African Acquisition

India's Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL) says it has signed a "legally binding definitive agreement" to acquire the African operations of the Zain Group in a deal valued at $10.7 billion.

The signing of the deal, which has already been examined and dissected by the media and financial communities, will come as something of a relief for the Bharti management, as the carrier had twice attempted, but failed, to use an acquisition in Africa as the springboard to becoming a global mobile power. (See Bharti Closes In on African Acquisition and Bharti, MTN Abandon $23B Merger.)

Bharti is paying $9 billion, and taking on $1.7 billion in debt, for Zain Africa, which comprises operations in 15 African markets -- Burkina Faso, Chad, Congo Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia -- and about 42 million customers.

Bharti says the deal will make it the world's fifth-largest mobile operator, with operations in 18 countries and a customer base of 179 million. The combined footprint of Bharti and Zain Africa covers 1.8 billion people, according to the Indian carrier's calculations.

Bharti Airtel is India's leading mobile operator, with 124.6 million mobile customers at the end of February. It also has 3 million fixed-line customers in its domestic market, and operations in Sri Lanka and (from a recent acquisition) Bangladesh. (See Bharti Buys Stake in Warid and Asia Watch: Buy Me, I'm Hot!)

— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

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