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Bharti Seeks to Make Digital Unit a Parallel Company to Airtel, Telecom News, ET Telecom

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New Delhi: Bharti Airtel, which has housed all of its digital assets in the Airtel Digital unit, plans to make it a parallel entity to the telecom operator, thus opening up the possibility of monetizing a separate asset in the future, has said President Sunil Bharti Mittal. The new structure could remove the telecommunications regulatory surplus on Airtel Digital, which could even be listed in two or three years.

In an interview with ET, Mittal said that in the future, expanding financial services, which includes the hope of becoming a small financial bank, but not a full-fledged bank, would be a big area of ​​focus. for the telecommunications company.

Bharti Airtel itself has grown into a tech company, he said, and has emerged stronger from a bloody tariff battle since Reliance Jio entered in September 2016, with a market share of around 35. %, the highest ever recorded. Maybe some people underestimated his inner strength (Airtels), ”he said.

Now there is something called Airtel Digital, under which all digital entities are hosted. About 119 million active monthly users sit where a lot of ad revenue is growing, Mittal told ET. What we are thinking of is a back-up company, which will then be Airtel’s holding company and DigitalDigital could become parallel (to Airtel) the thought is to restructure it so that we have similar results (like investments in Jio Platforms).

He added that the reorganization will take several months and that investments in the digital sector will be sought after it is scaled up. From the revenue of Rs100 crore currently, Airtel Digital is expected to increase to Rs 1000 crore.

Jio Platforms, home to Reliance Industries’ digital and telecoms assets, received more than Rs 1.52 crore lakh last year by ceding nearly 33% stake to 13 investors, including Facebook, Google, Intel and Qualcomm.

Board of Directors meeting on February 17

But Mittal said the new structure Airtel envisioned would be different from what RIL had done. The Mukesh Ambani-owned company had established Jio Platforms as a direct unit which in turn became the parent company of Reliance Jio, the leader in the telecommunications market in India.

you get a piece of what is on top (Jio platforms) and therefore, also a piece of Jio. But here he (Airtel Digital) could be sitting next to (Airtel), which would potentially mean two monetizable assets, Mittal said. You have a publicly traded company and you can also bring a list here after two or three years.

Led by Adarsh ​​Nair, Airtel Digital hosts the company’s digital properties including Wynk Music, Thanks, Xstream, Payments, and products like Airtel IQ, Safe Pay, among others, and employs over 1,500 people. , which is growing rapidly.

A lot of people, from Google, Facebook, have come back and are working in this IQ that was launched Safe Pay just launched with a bank, Mittal said. He said digital activity will be targeted at corporate clients and focus on B2B2C.

The reorganization will also ensure that digital services that are not regulated by telecommunications licenses do not have the regulatory overhang of the telecommunications service, Mittal said. Revenues from digital services will be separated from Bharti Airtel and therefore will not be part of the calculation of Adjusted Gross Revenues (AGR), on the basis of which license fees and spectrum usage fees are paid.

Airtel announced on Friday that its board of directors will meet on February 17 to consider restructuring its business.

Speaking on the telecommunications sector, Mittal said that according to Airtels, the telecommunications company has paid its AGR dues for the next four years, given its initial payment of Rs18,000 crore against a claim of some Rs40, 000 crore.

He added that Airtel has raised $ 12 billion over the past two and a half years and has not faced immediate monetization needs.

But if needed, monetization options included the use of InvIT (Infrastructure Investment Trust) structures that raise funds while allowing operational control. There are big assets sitting in towers: 42% in Indus towers are worth Rs25,000 crore, also the large amount of fiber could be tens of thousands of crore. In addition, its activities in Bangladesh are worth a billion dollars, Mittal said.

Airtel contacted the Reserve Bank of India to get a small banking license, which would allow it to start lending to its customers who can currently only deposit with the payment bank. Right now we’re just connecting other lenders to our clients, I’d rather do my own risk book, at least a small one, Mittal said. He added that the payment bank has led to customer loyalty at Airtel and a reduction in the churn rate, or users leaving its network.



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