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UPDATE 2-Singtel to sell 3.3% stake in Bharti Airtel for $1.6 billion

UPDATE 2-Singtel to sell 3.3% stake in Bharti Airtel for $1.6 billion

(Adds analyst comment, Bharti Airtel shares)

By Yagnoseni Das

BENGALURU, Aug 25 (Reuters) - Singapore Telecommunications Ltd said on Thursday it would sell a 3.3% stake in India's Bharti Airtel Ltd to Bharti Telecom Ltd for an aggregate consideration of about S$2.25 billion ($1.61 billion).

Singtel, southeast Asia's largest telecom firm, said its units Pastel Ltd and Viridian Ltd would together sell 198 million shares they hold in India's second-biggest telecom operator.

Shares of Bharti Airtel rose as much as 2.1% after the announcement.

"Markets didn't take the news very badly, in the sense it (the sale) is not happening in the open market, which is positive news," said Ambit Capital analyst Vivekanand Subbaraman.

Bharti Airtel competes with Vodafone Idea and Mukesh Ambani-backed Reliance Jio in the cut throat telecoms market in India, currently in the race to spearhead the next generation 5G rollout in the country.

Proceeds from the sale may be used to reduce the group's debt and fund 5G capital expenditures and growth initiatives, Singtel said.

Airtel has been raising money to fund its digital ambitions, including developing home broadband, data centres, cloud adoption as it prepares to launch its next-generation 5G services in the country. (https://reut.rs/3PIPQRn)

Singtel said last month it would sell its loss-making digital marketing arm Amobee for $239 million, monetised a 1.6% stake in Airtel Africa for about S$150 million in March, and sold a 70% stake in its Australian tower network for A$1.9 billion last year.

After the stake sale, Singtel's effective holding in Bharti Airtel will fall to 29.7%, it added.

($1 = 1.3934 Singapore dollars) (Reporting by Yagnoseni Das and Shashwat Awasthi; Editing by Arun Koyyur, Subhranshu Sahu and Rashmi Aich)