India’s Bharti Airtel Plans June for London IPO of $5bn Africa phone unit

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A customer makes a call at the Bharti Airtel Ltd. flagship store in Mumbai, India on Thursday, May 2, 2013. Bharti Airtel, India's largest mobile-phone operator, posted profit that missed analyst estimates after a weaker rupee raised the interest payments and prices for network equipment. Photographer: Kuni Takahashi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Bharti Airtel Ltd., India’s second-biggest wireless carrier, is preparing to kick off the initial public offering of its Africa unit in a deal that could raise about $1 billion, people familiar with the matter said.

Airtel Africa is planning to make a formal announcement about the London listing this month and aims to start trading in June, the people said, asking not to be identified because the matter is private. It’s considering seeking an equity valuation of about $5 billion, they said.

The IPO could be one of the biggest in London this year. The exchange’s lackluster domestic volumes are being boosted by emerging-market companies seeking a wider investor pool. Finablr, the currency-exchange firm controlled by an Abu Dhabi-based billionaire, starting taking orders this week for a share sale that could raise as much as $677 million. Middle Eastern payments processor Network International Holdings Plc raised 1.1 billion pounds ($1.4 billion) last month in the largest London IPO this year.

Valuation and the listing date are still under discussion, and final details could change depending on investor demand and market sentiment, the people said. A representative for Bharti Airtel declined to comment.

Bharti Airtel, backed by billionaire Sunil Mittal, has spent heavily to defend its position in India against disruptive upstart Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd. The firm’s Africa unit raised $1.25 billion last year from investors including Temasek Holdings Pte and SoftBank Group Corp., giving it an equity value of about $4.4 billion.

The business has operations in 14 African markets including Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria and Ghana, according to Bharti Airtel’s latest annual report.

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Godwin Okafor is a Financial Journalist, Internet Social Entrepreneur and Founder of Naija247news Media Limited. He has over 16 years experience in financial journalism. His experience cuts across traditional and digital media. He started his journalism career at Business Day, Nigeria and founded Naija247news Media in 2010. Godwin holds a Bachelors degree in Industrial Relations and Personnel Management from the Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos. He is an alumni of Lagos Business School and a Fellow of the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton Seminar for Business Journalists). Over the years, he has won a number of journalism awards. Godwin is the chairman of Emmerich Resources Limited, the publisher of Naija247news.