SingTel – BT

Why SingTel isn’t bidding, ask analysts

SINGAPORE Telecommunications should explain to shareholders why the company allowed associate Bharti Airtel to bid for Zain’s African wireless assets, instead of offering to buy the businesses directly, analysts at Deutsche Bank said.

‘This is one of the few African portfolios potentially available, and it is not clear how SingTel’s shareholders benefit from indirect exposure to Africa,’ the Deutsche Bank analysts including Hong Kong-based William Bratton wrote in a report on Wednesday. ‘We are increasingly puzzled by SingTel’s international strategy.’

Bharti Airtel, in which SingTel owns almost a one-third stake, this week offered US$9 billion to buy most of Kuwait-based Zain’s African assets. The Singapore company was supporting the deal, the Times of India reported yesterday, citing Bharti chairman Sunil Mittal.

‘SingTel continues to explore investment opportunities in the Asia Pacific region and emerging adjacent markets,’ Singapore Telecommunications told Bloomberg News yesterday. ‘We can do so directly or, should the synergies be stronger with our associates, we will work with them.’

SingTel shares gained four cents to close at $3.04 in Singapore trading yesterday.

Bharti, South Asia’s biggest mobile-phone company, contributed fourth-quarter profit of $235 million to Singapore Telecommunications, the shareholder said in its earnings report this month.

The New Delhi-based carrier last month said it had 120.2 million subscribers as of Dec 31, an increase of 40 per cent from a year earlier. — Bloomberg

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