India's Bharti Airtel on Thursday said it has begun the process of raising funds for the $10.7 billion deal to acquire the African assets of Kuwait's Zain that will make it the world's fifth largest mobile telecom firm.
"Further to our announcement dated March 30, 2010 regarding the proposed acquisition of Zain Africa BV, Bharti Airtel Ltd is pleased to report that it has initiated the funds drawdown for the completion of the said transaction," the company said in a statement.
Zain's acquisition is the largest overseas acquisition of assets in Africa by an Indian company, even though it does not cover the assets of Zain in Sudan and Morocco.
Post-acquisition, Bharti will become the world's fifth largest wireless company with operations across 18 countries. Its total customer base will reach over 180 million, including Zain Africa's mobile operations in 15 countries with over 42 million customers.
This is Bharti's third attempt to enter the largely untapped African market after failing to enter into a merger pact with South Africa's MTN on two occasions. Africa accounts a little over 60 percent of Zain's 71.8 million customers.
Bharti Airtel is among Asia's leading telecom service providers with operations in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
As on March 31, it had the largest market share of 30.16 percent in India's mobile telephony segment with 130.6 million subscribers.