Airtel will be exiting Ghana and selling its 49.95% stake in its joint venture telco in the country to the government, the company announced in a stock market filing on Tuesday. “Airtel is voluntarily taking an impairment charge of [₹184.1 crore],” the company said. This announcement came on the same day that the company announced a narrowed net loss of ₹763 crore. Airtel has been doing business in Ghana under the brand name AirtelTigo, in partnership with Luxembourg-headquartered Millicom. The Airtel board approved the transaction, “along with all customers, assets and agreed liabilities,” Airtel said in its filing.
AirtelTigo’s website still sports the Airtel branding, and it’s not clear if that will remain. There is precedent for this — after Airtel scaled down its ownership of its business in Bangladesh, the brand continued under Robi, another telco, even as Airtel was just a minority shareholder. The telecom market in Ghana benefited from state-owned operator Ghana Telecom being sold to Vodafone, according to analysis by telecom consultancy BuddeComm.
As such, it is curious to see a telecom sale to the government. As of March 2020, AirtelTigo had a 15.81% market share of voice subscribers, and a 20.25% share in data subscribers, according to data published by the country’s National Communications Authority. Over half the market share is with MTN Ghana, a subsidiary of the South African telco MTN.