Non-profit sells nearly 200 million shares, reportedly raising around €1.3 billion

The Qatar Foundation sold its 5% stake in Bharti Airtel on Wednesday, raising around 95 billion rupees (€1.26 billion).

In a stock exchange filing, Qatar Foundation affiliate Three Pillars offloaded 199.87 million shares in the Indian operator on the open market.

A source cited in a Press Trust of India report said the shares were initially offered in the range of INR473-INR490, but the top end of the price range was later brought down to INR490. It represented a discount on Bharti Airtel’s INR514 closing price on Tuesday.

The Qatar Foundation bought its 5% stake in Bharti Airtel in May 2013, paying US$1.26 billion. At the time, the non-profit said the investment would give it exposure to a high-growth sector in a key emerging market.

While Wednesday’s divestment clearly has more to do with the situation in Qatar than in India, the latter market could hardly describe its telecoms sector as "high growth" when it comes to revenue and earnings these days.

India’s mobile market is in the grip of another price war, sparked by the launch of Reliance Jio Infocomm.

Gopal Vittal, CEO of Bharti Airtel’s India and South Asia business said last week that the company expects further downward pressure on revenue going forward, due to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI’s) decision to reduce the interconnection usage charge (IUC) to INR0.06 per minute from INR0.14.

The comment was made after Bharti Airtel posted a 76.5% fall in fiscal second quarter profit.

Meanwhile, smaller players are looking for a way out of the market altogether.

A report on Wednesday claimed that following its failed bid to merge with Reliance Communications, Aircel has become the latest telco to scramble for the exit. According to the Economic Times, Aircel is looking to sell its customer base to one of its rivals, and its infrastructure assets – including towers – to another.