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Bharti Airtel to Pay Tanzania $ 26 Million and Unit Debt Cancellation to Settle Dispute

FILE PHOTO: A girl checks her cell phone as she walks past the Bharti Airtel office building in Gurugram, formerly Gurgaon, on the outskirts of New Delhi, India April 21, 2016. REUTERS / Adnan Abidi

DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) – India’s Bharti Airtel has agreed to pay 60 billion shillings ($ 26 million) over five years and write off its debt to resolve a dispute over the ownership of its Airtel Tanzania unit, said the Tanzanian government on Monday.

Tanzanian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation in East Africa Palamagamba Kabudi announced the agreement in a ceremony to receive a three-month bundle of monthly payments worth 1 billion shillings each due from April of this year.

Bharti Airtel also forgave $ 407 million in debt owed to it by Airtel Tanzania as part of the settlement, Kabudi said.

In 2017, the Indian company was embroiled in a dispute with Dar es Salaam over the ownership of the mobile operator after President John Magufuli said it was 100% owned by state-owned Tanzania Telecommunications Company Ltd ( TTCL).

He said TTCL had been defrauded of its actions through an irregular privatization process. Bharti Airtel rejected the request, saying it complied with regulatory approvals when it acquired a 60% stake in the company.

After protracted negotiations, the two sides signed an agreement in January that included Bharti Airtel agreeing to increase the government’s stake in the company from 40% to 49%.

Bharti Airtel executive chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal said he hoped the deal “would give the company a fresh start”.

Reporting by Nuzulack Dausen; written by Elias Biryabarema, edited by Deepa Babington