Airtel Seeking to Raise Rs.8,200 Crore via Offshore Bonds
Bharti Airtel is evaluating an offshore bond issue to raise up to $1 billion, or about Rs 8,200 crore, to refinance high-cost debt, fortify its balance sheet, and meet a portion of its 5G capital expenditure needs, two people aware of the matter said.
India's second-largest telco is in discussions with top foreign banks, including Barclays, Standard Chartered Bank and Citi, to explore a US dollar bonds floatation in overseas markets in one or more tranches this fiscal year, they said.
"Airtel is in initial talks with banks for a dollar bond issuance of up to $1 billion," a banker aware of the matter told. "It would take some time for all regulatory approvals to come; the talks are at the stage of setting up a framework."
While full contours of the fundraising have yet to be finalised, the offshore bonds are likely to have three-five year maturities, the people cited above said.
The Sunil Mittal-led telco's consolidated net debt rose 1.6% sequentially to Rs 2.13 lakh crore in the quarter ended March, largely due to an increase in lease liabilities.
Its managing director Gopal Vittal, in fact, had said during the telco's fourth-quarter earnings call last month that Airtel is looking to cut its debt to more comfortable levels as that would give it more headroom to manoeuvre and do things that the business needs for sustaining growth.The offshore fundraise plan via bonds also comes at a time when Airtel's annual India capital expenditure is estimated to stay elevated at around ₹28,500 crore this fiscal year, akin to the levels incurred in FY23, amid aggressive 5G rollouts and rural push.