Kuwaiti telecommunications operator Zain has completed the sale of its African unit, Zain Africa BV, to Indian firm Bharti Airtel with the deal to be signed by the end of March.

Bharti, which is 32 per cent owned by Singapore Telecommunications, will pay a total of $9bn in cash to Zain including $700m to be paid one year after the conclusion of the deal. The Indian firm will also assume $1.7bn of debt through Zain Africa.

“Upon signing, the parties will move towards getting any required approvals,” Zain said in a 25 March statement.

Bharti said on 21 March that it had secured $8.3bn in loans from a group of lenders led by the UK’s Standard Chartered and Barclays, alongside the local State Bank of India.

The deal will extend Bharti’s reach into 15 African emerging markets after two failed bids to buy South Africa’s MTN, the continent’s biggest mobile operator. It marks the second-biggest overseas acquisition by an Indian buyer after Tata Steel’s $12bn purchase of Corus, Europe’s second largest steel producer, in 2007.  

The sale of Zain Africa BV does not include Zain’s operation in Sudan or its investment in Morocco.

Analysts have said Zain’s decision to sell its African assets is a clear sign that the firm is repositioning itself as a Middle Eastern, rather than a global player.