The takeover would be one of India's biggest cross-border deals and give Bharti a significant foothold in the continent's cellular market where just 36 out of every 100 people own a mobile phone.
That compares with Europe and other developed markets where there are more mobile phones than people, while in India mobile use stands at about 44 connections per 100 people.
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"Africa is under-penetrated, it has less competition (than the Indian market). It is a step in the right direction" for Bharti, said Romal Shetty, senior telecom analyst at international consultancy KPMG.
Bharti, India's largest mobile firm which is 32-percent owned by Singapore Telecom, and Zain, Kuwait's biggest phone company, said Monday they had agreed to hold exclusive talks until March 25 t