The Bharti group is gearing itself to become the numero uno in telecommunication services in the country. Last August, Bharti Enterprises entered into a joint venture (JV) with Singapore Telecom (SingTel) to exploit the emerging opportunities in the telecom sector.
SingTel acquired 20% of the JV company, Bharti Televentures, for Rs 18.4 bn ($400 m). The two promoters have recently announced plans to install an 8.4 terabit per second, sub-sea, broadband network. The JV plans to float a new company, Bharti Aquanet, for the sub-sea cable initiative.
In phase-I the network will link Chennai to Singapore followed by a Singapore - Mumbai link in phase-II and a Mumbai - Chennai surface link in phase - III. The promoters hope to complete Phase-I by the end of 2001.
The total project is estimated to cost Rs 300 bn ($650 m). Both the promoters will invest equally in the project. The management is also thinking in the lines of a public issue to raise Rs 92 bn ($250 m). The IPO could either be through a domestic offering, the American Depository Receipt (ADR) route or both depending on the market conditions.
The promoters will leverage on this infrastructure to offer domestic and international long distance telephony services. It will also sell the bandwidth to other operators offering these services and to internet service providers.
Currently, the Bharti group operates its cellular business under the AirTel brand name. It has presence in the Delhi, Karnataka, Andhra and Himachal Pradesh circles and is the third largest cellular service provider in the country.
In basic telephony the company has presence in Madhya Pradesh and is the largest private fixed service provider (FSP). The ISP business operates under the Mantra Online brand name and currently is providing services in Delhi, Banglore and Bombay.
Having executed its earlier projects successfully the group is setting its eyes on the opportunities arising across the telecommunication services chain.