Reports in the press had suggested that Airtel was entertaining bids from Singtel and SoftBank over the sale of a minority stake in the company

India’s third largest telecoms network operator, Bharti Airtel, has rejected suggestions that it was preparing to sell off a minority stake in the company to foreign investors, in a bid to raise cash for its 5G rollout programme.

Earlier this week, reports in the press suggested that Airtel was lining up investment from a number of Asian operators, including SoftBank and Singtel.

“It is clarified that at this juncture, there is no proposal for sale of stake in Bharti Airtel, either directly or indirectly,” said in a bourse filing.

Airtel dismissed a report in the Business Standard, suggesting that SoftBank was preparing the way to acquire a stake in the company, as nothing more than a "speculative news item".   

Airtel’s CEO, Gopal Vittal, has recently bemoaned the prevailing conditions in India’s telecoms market, and some analysts had suggested that Airtel might consider selling a stake in itself as a way to boost its incomes, as it prepares to invest in its 5G networks.

Speaking at the ET Telecoms 5G Congress in Delhi last week, Vittal said that the cost of doing business in India had to come down, or telcos would not be able to afford the capital investment that 5G demands.

“If you look at the investment that we are making even for 4G, for every 100 rupees that we earn, we spend 34 rupees on capex. For most other companies in this industry, that figure would be closer to 16 or 17 rupees.

“An additional 31 rupees goes to the government for tax. This is a broken situation and we need to fix this,” he added.


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