Bharti Airtel signs for over $2 bn loan as ratings downgrade threat looms

Bharti Airtel Ltd. is raising more than $2 billion in loans from banks, as India’s second-biggest wireless carrier faces increased competition at home and the threat of a ratings downgrade to junk.

The company, controlled by billionaire Sunil Bharti Mittal, has agreed to two- and three-year bilateral loans with 10 to 12 lenders, according to people with knowledge of the matter, who are not authorized to speak publicly and asked not to be identified. Moody’s Investors Service on Nov. 8 put Bharti’s Baa3 rating, its lowest investment-grade evaluation, on review for downgrade citing low levels of profitability and higher debt levels to fund capital spending.

A price war for Indian customers has worsened since billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd. debuted with free services in 2016. Bharti delayed plans for an initial public offering of its Africa unit due to the turmoil in emerging markets, people with knowledge of the matter said last month.

The all-in cost for Bharti’s dollar loan, which includes margin and upfront fees for the deals, is about 110-120 basis points over London interbank offered rate, according to people familiar with the deal. A Bharti spokesman declined to comment on the transaction.

Bharti Airtel International (Netherlands) B.V., a company unit, signed for separate bilateral loans totaling over 1.75 billion euros ($2 billion) with more than 10 lenders, people familiar with the matter said.

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