Bharti in talks with SBI for Zain deal

Bharti Airtel, India's biggest mobile operator, has shown interest in obtaining funding from the country's biggest lender, State Bank of India, for its $9-billion offer to acquire Kuwaiti Telecom Zain's African assets, SBI chairman O P Bhatt said on Wednesday. 

Bhatt told reporters in Mumbai that Bharti was in talks with his bank regarding the deal, but gave no details. He was speaking on the sidelines of a banking technology summit. "Bharti is interested," he said. 

Bharti and Zain are in exclusive talks until 25 March for the proposed deal, which would give Bharti access in 15 African countries with about 42 million subscribers. (See: Bharti all set to acquire Zain Africa BV

On Tuesday, people familiar with the deal told Reuters that Bharti might finalise by Friday what could be the largest acquisition loan for an Indian borrower. 

Sources have said Bharti is looking at a mix of dollar and rupee funding to finance the deal. The majority of the deal's funding is expected to be in the form of an offshore loan of at least $5 billion. 

Meanwhile, Zain's new chief executive officer Nabil bin Salamah said on Tuesday that his telecom company will focus its operations on the Middle East after it concludes the sale of its African assets to Bharti Airtel.