India’s Bharti Airtel has signed an agreement to purchase Warid Telecom Uganda for an undisclosed sum in a deal that represents the first major drive towards consolidation in the East African nation’s crowded wireless sector. According to the Economic Times, sources close to the deal estimate the sale to be valued in the region of INR5.5 billion (USD101.52 million), though this was not confirmed. The Indian group’s international managing director and CEO Manoj Kohli noted that the acquisition was the telco’s first ‘in-market acquisition’, adding: ‘We believe this market consolidation offers great synergies by bringing together the best of Airtel and Warid to better serve customers in Uganda.’ The deal is subject to regulatory and statutory approvals.
TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes that there were six wireless providers in Uganda at the end of 2012, with the launch of the nation’s first mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), K2, in early 2013 intensifying competition further. Bharti’s acquisition of Warid – currently the fourth largest provider in the market by subscribers – would add approximately 2.9 million customers to Airtel Uganda’s 4.6 million-strong subscriber base and increase its market share to nearly 40%, allowing it to snatch the top spot from South African-backed provider MTN Uganda. MTN claimed some 7.2 million subscribers at the end of 2012, giving it a 38.0% share of the nation’s 19 million mobile customers. Also competing in the market are Uganda Telecom Ltd (UTL), Orange Uganda and iTel.