Bharti to invest $100 million in Niger by 2012

By : |July 3, 2010 0

NIAMEY, NIGER: Bharti Airtel Ltd will invest about $100 million in Niger to improve the reach and quality of its network in the West African nation by the end of 2012, the mobile phone company said on Friday.

Bharti took over mobile operations in 15 African nations when it completed the acquisition of the African assets of Kuwait’s Zain last month. The deal made it the world’s No.5 mobile phone operator by subscribers.

"We are going to start our activities in Niger in October and, by 2012, we will invest $100 million, or about 50 billion CFA francs, in expanding the network, improving quality and (improving) the coverage in the rural areas," said Manoj Kohli, chief executive of the group’s international business.

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"We will ensure that telecommunications becomes more accessible in terms of price and the quality of the service improves," he told reporters, on the latest leg of an African tour, during which there have been promises of investments elsewhere, such as in Zambia.

The company, which is facing tough competition in a crowded home market, is betting on opportunities in Africa where mobile phone penetration is 32 per cent, less than India’s 50 per cent, and there are fewer competitors. Kholi said penetration rates in Niger, a poor desert nation currently in the grips of a food crisis, was one of the lowest at 10 per cent to 11 per cent.

"If Niger is to develop, it much reach (penetration rates) of 40 per cent," he said. "Our group is going to invest here to ensure that we can make the difference in telecommunications here in Niger."

Earlier this year, Bharti spent $9 billion buying Zain’s assets in Africa. The acquisition gives Bharti 42 million customers in Africa and $3.6 billion in annual revenue, but there are financial and management challenges as it deals with 15 governments and people speaking more than 1,000 languages.

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