Monday, March 22, 2010

Bharti shares rise on Zain Africa deal hopes

[economic times] Shares in Bharti Airtel rose on Monday morning on hopes Bharti is heading towards a smooth landing in its $9 billion deal talks to buy
Kuwaiti telecom Zain's African operations. Bharti said on Sunday it had tied up the entire financing requirement of $8.3 billion, with major international banks committing to underwrite the amount, in a sign of progress as the deadline for exclusive talks with Zain expires on Thursday.

Bharti did not say how much interest it was paying for the loans, but banking sources have said the company was getting around 200 basis points over Libor, lower than initial talks of more than 300 basis points. "The acquisition seems to be on the right track," said Harit Shah, a sector analyst with Karvy Broking. "But at this level, I won't be comfortable buying this stock.

It has risen so much in the last one month. The deal will certainly be EPS dilutive." By 0436 GMT, Bharti shares were up 1.6 percent in a weak market, after rising as much as 2.2 percent, and turned positive for the year. At its high on Monday, the stock was up 18 percent since Feb 16, when it had fallen to its lowest level in nearly a year.

The share was the second-worst performer in the 30-stock BSE index in 2009 and was among the only two stocks to have given negative returns even as the benchmark jumped 81 percent.


Bharti's talks with Zain mark the third time the Indian firm has tried to get its hands on a meaningful African business after two failed bids for South Africa's MTN. It has been hunting for emerging market assets as its home turf becomes fiercely competitive and call charges plummet in the world's fastest growing mobile market.

Bharti and Zain also look to have cleared a potential stumbling block over ownership of Zain's assets in Nigeria, that is 65 percent owned by the Kuwaiti firm. A source told Reuters last week Bharti might put part of the purchase price in an escrow account to protect it from potential problems such as that in Nigeria.

The unit is a crown jewel, without which Bharti would not close the deal. In Kuwait, Zain said its due diligence process was on schedule and that work on final deal documents could take place after its board meeting on Wednesday. The source also told Reuters last week Bharti was aiming to meet the March 25 deadline, though there was a chance of one or two days slippage in the actual deal being announced.

Bharti shares rise on Zain Africa deal hopes

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