November 7, 2017 / 2:55 PM / a year ago

Qatari investor sells $1.5 billion stake in India's Bharti Airtel

SINGAPORE/MUMBAI (Reuters) - A Qatari investor sold its entire 5 percent stake in top Indian telecoms carrier Bharti Airtel (BRTI.NS) on Wednesday for 96 billion rupees ($1.48 billion), adding to the sanctions-hit Gulf nation’s recent stake sales in foreign companies.

A girl checks her mobile phone as she walks past the Bharti Airtel office building in Gurugram, previously known as Gurgaon, on the outskirts of New Delhi, India April 21, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/File Photo

An affiliate of the Qatar Foundation Endowment (QFE) sold about 199.9 million shares in the phone carrier at 481 rupees each via a block trade, it said in a statement.

The sale price was a 6.4 percent discount to Bharti Airtel’s Tuesday closing price, but will still give the Qatari investor a significant return over its 68 billion-rupee investment in the Indian company in May 2013.

QFE will reinvest the proceeds from Bharti Airtel stake sale as part of growth of its global portfolio and diversification, it said in the statement.

Rashed Fahad Al-Noaimi, chief executive of investments at Qatar Foundation will step down from Bharti Airtel’s board after the settlement of the sale.

The sale comes at a time when other Qatari firms, including its sovereign wealth fund, are cutting stakes in foreign companies to raise cash and withstand pressure on the economy, which has been hit by sanctions imposed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt since early June.

The Gulf countries cut diplomatic and transport ties with Doha on June 5, accusing it of backing terrorism, a charge which Doha denies.

Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority, has responded to the crisis by pumping billions of dollars into local banks to shore up their deposits.

It has also reduced its stake in upscale jeweler Tiffany & Co (TIF.N), Russian energy giant Rosneft (ROSN.MM) and Swiss bank Credit Suisse (CSGN.S).

Bharti Airtel shares closed 3.7 percent down at 495.30 rupees. Still, the stock is up 62 percent in 2017 on signs of an end to a bruising price war in the Indian telecoms space and hopes that industry consolidation would benefit established players.

JPMorgan on Wednesday upgraded the stock to “neutral” from “underweight”, saying the fundamentals for large players in were “falling in place sooner than expected”.

($1 = 64.9750 Indian rupees)

Reporting by S. Anuradha of IFR and Devidutta Tripathy, additional reporting by Saeed Azhar in Dubai, Sankalp Phartiyal and Swati Bhat in Mumbai; Editing by Himani Sarkar and David Evans

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