March 12, 2019 / 5:25 AM / 9 months ago

CORRECTED-UPDATE 1-India's Bharti Airtel to transfer most of Infratel stake to unit

(Corrects premium in paragraph 7 to 13.4 pct, from 8.6 pct)

March 12 (Reuters) - India’s Bharti Infratel Ltd said on Tuesday mobile carrier and its majority shareholder Bharti Airtel Ltd will lower its direct stake in the telecom tower company by more than a half.

Airtel's unit Nettle Infrastructure Investments Ltd will buy an up to 32 percent stake in Bharti Infratel by March 18, Infratel said here in an exchange filing.

Airtel will own an 18.3 percent stake in Infratel after the transfer, down from its current stake of 50.33 percent.

“Whenever Airtel transfers stake to Nettle Infrastructure, (eventually) they will sell the stake to a third party. This will help them raise money,” said a Mumbai-based an analyst, who did not want to be named.

Airtel, like its peers in the industry, has faced immense competition since the entry of Reliance Industries’ upstart Jio in late 2016 with its debts soaring and profit margins eroding.

Singapore Telecommunications Ltd said last week it will buy roughly $525 million worth Airtel stock as part of Airtel’s plan to raise $4.6 billion through shares and bonds.

Nettle will buy Infratel shares for up to 362.45 rupees each, a premium of up to 13.4 percent to the stock’s closing price on Monday. Nettle already owns a 3.18 percent stake in Infratel.

Bharti Infratel shares fell as much as 3.4 percent to 309 rupees. (Reporting by Tanvi Mehta in Bengaluru; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier)

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