Bharti Airtel to spend $1.5 bn on Africa operations

Bharti Airtel, India's top mobile phone carrier, has plans to spend $1.4 to $1.5 billion on its Africa operations in the current fiscal year to end-March, according to an unnamed company executive quoted by Reuters.

He added that the carrier has a 3G subscriber base of 7 million in India.

The company, owned nearly a third, by Southeast Asia's biggest phone firm SingTel, today reported a bigger-than-expected 38-per cent fall in quarterly profit, as higher interest costs and foreign exchange losses hit its performance (See: Bharti Airtel net profit declines by 38 %).

Bharti, with operations spread across 19 countries of Asia and Africa, is the world's fifth-biggest mobile phone carrier by subscribers and in its biggest market, India, it counted 173 million mobile users at the end of September.

The company last year made a foray into Africa with acquisition of most of the African mobile operations of Kuwait's Zain in a $9 billion debt-funded deal.

However high costs in Africa have kept margins under pressure and a profit there has still eluded the company.