Singtel to sell part of stake in India’s Airtel to fund 5G

SINGAPORE Telecommunications Ltd will trim 3.3% of its direct stake in India’s Bharti Airtel Ltd to raise about S$2.25 billion (RM7.24 billion), which it will use to finance its 5G operations and expansion.

South-East Asia’s biggest telecom operator will sell its stake to Bharti Telecom Ltd, its venture with Bharti Enterprises Ltd, the Singapore company said in a statement on Thursday. Singtel is expected to own an effective stake of 29.7% in Bharti Airtel after the deal and has a net gain of about S$600 million.

“This is the largest monetisation Singtel has done so far and it was to illuminate the value that we hold across our associate companies that are long-term strategic investments,” Arthur Lang, group CFO, said in an interview. The company continues to work toward unlocking value to shareholders and is reallocating capital to areas of growth under its already announced strategic review plan, Lang said.

Singtel has been streamlining its portfolio as it focuses on 5G operations and seeks new growth engines. It’s disposing off an advertising platform and is said to be weighing options including selling its cyber security business Trustwave Holdings Inc and a possible stake sale in some fiber assets.

Singtel is not the only operator divesting assets. Vodafone Group plc is selling bits of its businesses and Japan’s NTT Ltd is said to be mulling a sale of its controlling stake in an IT services firm.

Singtel shares rose as much as 2.3% in Singapore — their biggest intraday jump in more than a week — while those of Bharti Airtel rose almost 4% in Mumbai before paring some gains.

Apart from funding 5G and growth in the next few years, the deal will “put us in a strong position to grow our dividends in a sustainable way,” Lang said in the statement. “We remain committed long-term investors having invested approximately S$1.3 billion in Airtel over the last three years.” – BLOOMBERG

Dayang Norazhar

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