Bharti Airtel chairman and managing director Sunil Bharti Mittal. Photo: AFP
Bharti Airtel chairman and managing director Sunil Bharti Mittal. Photo: AFP

India’s second largest mobile phone service provider Bharti Airtel, badly hit by recent predatory price wars in the Indian market and facing downgrades by prominent ratings agencies, finally has something to cheer about in the US bond market.

Bharti Airtel’s dollar-denominated bonds due in 2023 surged to their highest level in five years after the company offered to buy back the securities at above market price, Bloomberg reports.

They will pay US$985 per US$1,000 principal amount plus accrued interest for any or all of the US$1.5 billion of March 2023 notes in the tender offer, according to a weekend company filing. The bonds jumped 2.3 cents to 98 cents on the dollar, trimming their loss for the year to 8 cents. The buyback offer will expire on November 21, the news agency added.

Last week Moody’s Investors Service placed the company’s Baa3 rating on review for a cut to junk grade status amid concerns about weak cash flow and low profitability.

Analysts at Bank of America and Wells Fargo had earlier flagged the risk of the company slipping into the junk category, citing debt levels and stiff competition in local markets.

A price war in the Indian mobile phone services sector, unleashed by Reliance Jio Infocomm in 2016, brought disruption to the market, causing players like Telenor and Tata Teleservices to wind up operations.

Bharti Airtel, which was until recently the leading mobile phone service provider in India, recently slipped to second position after the merger of Idea Cellular Ltd. and Vodafone Group’s Indian unit.