India's Bharti Infratel plans $845 million IPO

Bharti Infratel, the telecom tower arm of India's leading mobile phone company Bharti Airtel, announced plans Friday to raise up to $845 million in what would be the country's biggest initial public offer in two years.

The initial public offer (IPO) would serve as an important gauge of foreign and domestic investors' appetite for new stock issues, and will mark the Bharti group's return to the capital market after a gap of a decade.

The offer will run from December 10 to 14, the company said.

Bharti Infratel has over 34,000 transmission towers across 18 states covering 11 telecom circles and also holds a 42 percent stake in Indus Towers -- the world's biggest tower firm -- which has around 110,000 towers.

The offering will be the biggest public issue since state-run Coal India raised $3.4 billion in an IPO in late 2010.

Since then, India's IPO market has virtually dried up as India's economy has slowed with more than 50 firms pulling their proposed initial offers since early 2011.

But in recent months India's benchmark 30-share Sensex stock index has surged, led by optimism over a blitz of government economic reforms and overseas fund inflows.

The Sensex has risen 11.15 percent from September to November.

Bharti Infratel would retain a little over three-quarters of the issue proceeds while a quarter will be distributed among private equity firms including Temasek, The Investment Corp of Dubai and Goldman Sachs, according to documents.

After the IPO, Bharti Airtel's stake in Bharti Infratel would fall to 79 percent from a current 86 percent while private equity firms will own 10.58 percent, down from 14 percent earlier.

Telecom transmission tower companies earn their money by leasing space to mobile phone firms. Bharti Infratel is expected to use the proceeds to expand its number of towers and upgrade existing ones.

Since the filing of the initial prospectus in mid-November, Bharti Airtel's shares have gained more than 20 percent on the Bombay Stock Exchange.

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