Bharti Airtel Delays IPO of $8 Billion Africa Business

(Bloomberg) -- Bharti Airtel Ltd., India’s second-biggest wireless carrier, is delaying a planned initial public offering of its Africa unit due to the turmoil in emerging-market stocks, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The company, which was originally aiming to list the unit in London by March, has pushed back the share sale by about half a year, according to the people. It plans to seek an enterprise value of about $8 billion for the Africa business, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private.

“Airtel Africa IPO preparations are proceeding as per plan and there is no change,” a representative for Bharti said in a statement Monday. A “new board is in place with new investor’s representatives and we remain very confident about the IPO process.”

Shares of Bharti fell 1.3 percent in Mumbai trading Monday. The benchmark S&P BSE Sensex index rose 2.2 percent.

Singapore Telecommunications Ltd., which owns a stake in Bharti’s parent company, said in August that the listing was slated for the first quarter of next year. The equity rout has derailed IPOs around the world, with companies from Spanish oil refiner Cepsa to U.S. filmmaker STX Entertainment scrapping or postponing their offerings.

Bharti, backed by billionaire Sunil Mittal, is seeking the listing after spending heavily to acquire spectrum in India and defend its position in the country against disruptive upstart Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd. It has operations in 14 African markets including Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria and Ghana, according to its latest annual report.

“Sentimentally, it will be negative for Bharti as its investors are looking at the company’s steps to fight it out with rival Jio,” Sushant Kumar, an equity fund manager at Raay Global Investments Pvt in Mumbai, said by phone Monday. “The IPO getting delayed is bad news as it would have helped in reducing the debt at a group level.”

Companies have completed $12 billion of IPOs in the U.K. this year, down from $15.8 billion during the same period in 2017, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Bharti hasn’t made any final decisions, and plans for the Africa unit’s offering could change, the people said.

Bharti said last week its African unit raised $1.25 billion from investors including Warburg Pincus, Temasek Holdings Pte and SoftBank Group Corp.

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