Bangladesh's telecom regulator has approved Indian firm Bharti Airtel's $300 million initial investment proposal to buy a 70 per cent stake in Warid, the fourth largest mobile company in the country.
"We have approved Bharti Airtel's plan to buy the Warid stake," Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) chairman Zia Ahmed told The Daily Star newspaper.
Bharti will take over a 70 per cent stake in Warid by creating new shares, possibly at a nominal price.
"We hope Airtel investment would cross $1 billion within the next few years," Ahmed said, hinting at his talks with Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman and group chief executive officer of Bharti Enterprises, who recently visited Dhaka.
Ahmed added: "Whatever price Airtel is going to pay for Warid stake, as per law, 5.5 per cent of the deal amount must go to BTRC."
Bharti Airtel is one of the Asia's leading providers of telecommunication services with presence in all the 22 licensed jurisdictions in India and in Sri Lanka. It served an aggregate of 113,439,670 customers as of Sep 30, according to the company website.
The company also deploys, owns and manages passive infrastructure of telecom operations under its subsidiary Bharti Infratel Ltd.
Bharti Airtel expressed interest to invest in Bangladesh's mobile phone market in October 2008 during a meeting with BTRC officials at South Asian Telecommunication Regulators' Council in New Delhi.
With the BTRC approval, Bharti Airtel would be the first Indian telecom operator to enter Bangladesh's mobile market to compete with Bangladesh-Norway joint venture Grameenphone, Egypt-based Banglalink, Malaysia-Japan joint venture AKTEL, Bangladesh-Singapore joint venture Citycell and state-run Teletalk.
The BTRC chairman said the commission welcomed the Indian telecom giant as Airtel has a dynamic background in telecom sector with operations in different countries.