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India’s Bharti moves into Bangladesh

Grameenphone has said it will launch its 3G network at the beginning of October

Indian operator Bharti Airtel said Tuesday it has agreed to acquire at 70 per cent stake in Bangladeshi service provider Warid Telecom backed by an investment totalling $1bn.

Airtel will purchase 70 per cent of Warid from its current owners the Dhabi Group, leaving Dhabi with the remaining 30 per cent. As part of the transaction, Bharti will invest $300m to rapidly expand Warid’s operations and increase coverage and capacity. Over the next few years, Bharti’s overall investment in the company will be in the region of $1bn, making it difficult to see how much the Indian firm paid for the stake.

The move is thought to be the largest investment in Bangladesh by an Indian company, and will give Bharti access to the 64 districts of Bangladesh where Warid serves a total customer base of over 2.9 million.

Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman and managing director of Bharti Airtel, said the deal underlines the company’s “intent to further expand our operations to international markets.”

With a population of over 160 million and teledensity of 32 per cent, Mittal said Bangladesh is a very promising market for telecom services.

The purchase marks Bharti’s second operation outside of India. The company launched its mobile services in Sri Lanka in January 2009.

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