Bharti Airtel has confirmed it may seek to convert some of its debt to shareholders to equity. This could take its foreign ownership over Indian limits, and the company has applied for government clearance to allow this.
Airtel issued a statement following reports that Singtel plans to increase its stake in the company. The company said it may seek to retire some debt through equity from its existing promoter group (which may include its overseas entities) and SingTel in proportionate to its holding.
Even a marginal increase in foreign equity would take the foreign investment in its parent company Bharti Telecom above 50 percent. Once that happens, Bharti Telecom’s entire stake in Bharti Airtel will automatically be considered as foreign investment. Accordingly the company has applied for 100 percent foreign investment to allow further headroom for investments.
The statement was followed by a new report in the Business Standard that Softbank Group may be considering an investment in Airtel. The report said talks are at a preliminary stage and could also include Softbank investing in parts of Airtel infrastructure it’s looking to monetic.