Dhabi Group gets approval for Bangladesh sale

Dhabi Group's sale of Bangladesh's fourth largest mobile phone operator Warid to Indian telecoms giant Bharti Airtel is approved.

A bid by Indian telecoms giant Bharti Airtel to purchase Bangladesh's fourth largest mobile phone operator Warid has been approved, regulators have said. The Abu Dhabi-based Dhabi Group, which fully owns Warid Telecom, last month sought approval from the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission for the sale of a 70 per cent stake in Warid. "The commission has given the go-ahead to transfer (Dhabi Group's) Warid telecom shares to Bharti Airtel," the director general of BTRC, Ahsan Habib, said today.

The purchase makes Bharti the latest foreign company to make inroads into the fast-growing Bangladesh mobile market. "The commission has also approved investment of 300 million dollars by Bharti Airtel for the expansion of their telecommunication network across the country," Mr Habib added. Launched in May 2007, Warid had nearly three million subscribers ? out of nearly 52 million overall ? at the end of October 2009.

As the industry expands in Bangladesh, experts predict the number of mobile customers will pass 100 million by 2015, fuelled by a price war among the country's six operators. In 2004, Egyptian Orascom took over Sheba and Singapore's state-owned Singtel bought a 45 per cent stake in Bangladesh Telecom in 2005. Last year Japan's NTT DoCoMo paid 350 million dollars to buy a 30 per cent stake in operator AKTEL, majority owned by Malaysia's Axiata.

The move into Bangladesh by Bharti comes after its plan to ally with South Africa's MTN to create an emerging market telecom giant collapsed in September when Pretoria said it feared MTN might lose its "national character". Analysts say Bharti, which has more than 100 million subscribers in India, will need to expand abroad to increase revenues with earnings growth slowing in its home market, which has become crowded by new players.