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Bharti Infratel Eyes $500-Mn IPO

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Bharti Infratel, the mobile phone tower arm of India's Bharti Airtel, plans an initial public offering for at least $500 million and is expected to file regulatory papers in September or October, sources with direct knowledge of the matter said on Friday.

Bharti Infratel, which has more than 30,000 mobile phone towers, also holds a 42 per cent stake in joint venture tower company Indus Towers, which is the world's top telecoms tower firm with more than 110,000 towers.

Standard Chartered and Morgan Stanley are among the frontrunners to help manage the initial public offering, three of the sources told Reuters.

Details of an IPO by Bharti Infratel are being worked out and the deal size could change depending on valuation, said two of the sources, who declined to be named as the matter was not public yet.

A spokesman for Bharti Airtel, India's largest cellular carrier, declined to comment.

In 2007, Bharti Airtel sold up to a 9 per cent stake in the tower unit to seven international investors, including Temasek Holdings and Goldman Sachs for a total $1 billion.

Other investors in Bharti Infratel include Macquarie Group, Citigroup, India Equity Partners, Investment Corporation of Dubai and AIF Capital.

In February 2008, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co also agreed to invest $250 million in the tower arm.

Bharti Airtel last year acquired telecoms operations in 15 African countries from Kuwait's Zain in a $9 billion deal and became the world's fifth-biggest mobile operator by subscribers.

Bharti has previously said that it would take its tower unit public but has not disclosed the issue size or the timeline for the share sale.

India's equity capital market has been sluggish this year with companies raising $7.1 billion in the first half of 2011, down nearly 42 per cent from the same period last year, data from Thomson Reuters showed.

Many companies, including state-run firms such as explorer Oil and Natural Gas Corp and steelmaker Steel Authority of India Ltd, have delayed their shares sale plans due to poor market sentiment.

India's main share index is down 8 percent this year making it one of the world's worst performing markets.


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