MUMBAI, May 16 (Reuters) - India’s top mobile carrier Bharti Airtel has received financing commitments of up to $2.5 billion from top Chinese banks as it tries to invest in the growth of data networks across its global operations.
Bharti Airtel, which operates in 20 countries across Asia and Africa, said on Saturday that China Development Bank had committed a $2 billion credit line, while Industrial and Commercial Bank of China has offered a $500 million credit line.
The company signed the term sheets for the financing options in the presence of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is on an official visit to China.
The transaction needs approvals, including from India’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India, it said in a statement.
With a majority of the country still using more basic “feature phones”, India’s smartphone market is expected to grow at about 36 percent a year over the next five years, according to consulting firm Zinnov, making the higher margin mobile data business a potentially lucrative bet for network operators. (Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav)