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January 21, 2019

Airtel hints at listing at the NSE

Airtel Kenya Chief Executive Office Prasanta Das Sarma on July 26, 2018. /Jack Owuor
Airtel Kenya Chief Executive Office Prasanta Das Sarma on July 26, 2018. /Jack Owuor

Airtel Kenya has hinted at plans to list at the Nairobi Securities Exchange in a move that is likely to tighten competition against market leader Safaricom.

“I know there are plans of listing in some of these exchanges but the issue is at the shareholders level and I won’t comment more on that,” Airtel Kenya CEO Prasanta Das Sarma told the Star.

If listed, Airtel will become the second telecommunication firm at the bourse after Safaricom, currently the largest company by market capitalisation or investor wealth on the Nairobi Securities Exchange valued at Sh1.15 trillion as at end of last week. 

Early this month, Singapore Telecommunications Ltd told Bloomberg Quint that Bharti Airtel Ltd is planning an initial public offering of its profitable African businesses in the next one year.

Singapore Telecommunications owns 48.9 per cent of Bharti Airtel Ltd which is the global Airtel firm that runs Airtel Kenya.

While Bharti Airtel has not disclosed how much stake it plans to sell and when , it cannot offload more than 49 percent if it wants to retain control of its subsidiary.

The mobile service provider is present in 15 African countries and ranks among the top three players in all the markets. 

According to Singtel, the share sale will give flexibility to Airtels balance sheet.

Airtels market share in Kenya has risen by 3.4 per cent to gain about 2.4 million new subscribers in the last one year. This is according to latest data from the Communication Authority.

 Data from the regulator released last month, shows Airtel gained 2.5 per cent of the market share to 19.7 per cent as it signed up new customers and made inroads in voice, data and short message services.

Currently, Safaricom controls the telco sector with 67 per cent of the market share or about 29.5 million subscriptions. Airtel comes in second with 19.7 per cent or 8.7 million subscribers while Telkom sector takes position three with 8.6 per cent or 3.8 million subscriptions.

Listing of Airtel at NSE will be a big break from a three-year listing dry-spell witnessed at the bourse. 

Last week, Capital Markets Authority Chief executive Paul Muthaura said despite significant market developments in the last three years, the level of actual uptakes at NSE has been significantly lower.

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