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Airtel mulls merging India, Africa biz by mid-2013

India's telecoms giant is reportedly planning to merge its domestic and loss-making Africa business operations, as part of its "One Airtel" exercise to generate business synergies globally.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

India's telecommunications giant Bharti Airtel is reportedly planning to combine its Indian and African operations into a single business entity under a global CEO by the middle of next year, in what will be its most significant restructuring exercise to combine its business synergies across geographies.

A report by the Economic Times Monday cited an unnamed person familiar with the development as saying: "A lot can change between now and next year both in terms of the structure and the people." A Bharti Airtel spokesperson, however, said the company did not comment on speculation, it added.

Just last August, Bharti Airtel completed its "One Airtel" structure exercise for India and South Asia, which is one of the two current units of the company, accounting for 75 percent of revenue. The other unit is Africa, where it has operations in 17 countries, according to the report.

The company also admitted its loss-making African operations may not meet its target of US$5 billion in revenue for the year ending March 2013, it added.

Company insiders said the "One Airtel" move is meant to bridge synergies and cutting costs, and will help Bharti Airtel transform from a voice-led business model to one with data and lifestyle offerings centered on the consumer, the Economic Times noted.

While they confirmed with the newspaper that Bharti Airtel is working to extend "One Airtel" to all geographies, they said the restructuring and the roles of top management have not yet been finalized, and would only be discussed by the board early next year.

The Economic Times said, without citing sources, that Manoj Kohli, the joint managing director and international CEO of Airtel's African operations will be a possible frontrunner to head the combined entity, along with Gopal Vittal, the director of special projects.

Singapore's SingTel, which is a stakeholder in Airtel, had itself undergone  restructuring in March this year. It reorganized into three broad groups servicing different customer segments, instead of by geographical boundaries.

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