EXITING: Bharti Airtel Chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal

Bharti Airtel has announced that it will be exiting 14 African countries including Uganda within a year, with claims that the telecom operator is faced with poor performance across those markets.

The exit would pare the size of operations on the continent and could be completed within a year, Chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal said in an interview.

Faced with an escalating price war in its home market, India, Bharti is looking for ways to pare net debt equivalent to about $12 billion as of September.

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The company has sold its Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso operations, as well as some of its tower businesses, as it reorganizes assets it bought in 2010 in a $9 billion deal with Kuwait’s largest mobile-phone operator.

Bharti’s African unit lost $91 million in the quarter ended September, compared with a $170 million loss in the previous year. Some of Bharti’s businesses in 15 African nations would be affected by their exit, he said.

The affected countries include: Uganda, Chad, Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Seychelles, Tanzania and Zambia.

Bharti’s woes are said to have started from its home market, India; the November 8 late evening announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi that canceled 15.4 trillion rupees of the 17.7 trillion rupees in circulation may have an 8 percent to 10 percent impact on revenue.

About 94 percent of Bharti’s India customers use prepaid phone connections and were unable to recharge their phones in the ensuing cash shortages that plagued the nation.