MTN, Bharti resume merger talks

Mike Hibberd

May 26, 2009

2 Min Read
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Merger talks between India’s largest carrier, Bharti Airtel, and pan-MEA operator MTN have been restarted a year after they were last abandoned. The news comes in the wake of the carriers each announcing that they have broken the 100 million subscriber barrier.



Bharti and MTN re-establish discussions

MTN, which also held abortive merger talks with India’s number two carrier Reliance last summer, has agreed to negotiate exclusively with Bharti until the end of July this year.

Bharti is the third largest single-market operator in the world, after China Mobile and China Unicom, while South Africa-headquartered MTN is one of the MEA region’s strongest players, with operations in 22 countries. Combined, the two carriers would rank third in the world in subscriber terms, behind China Mobile and Vodafone.

The proposed deal would see Bharti acquire 49 per cent of MTN and MTN acquire 36 per cent of Bharti, of which 25 per cent would be held by MTN with the remainder held directly by MTN shareholders, Bharti said in a statement.

MTN would pay some $2.9 billion in cash and newly issued shares for its stake in Bharti, while the Indian firm would acquire approximately 36% of the currently issued share capital of MTN for ZAR 86.00 in cash plus 0.5 newly issued Bharti shares (per MTN share). This acquisition would push Bharti’s holding in MTN to 49 per cent.

“We are delighted at the prospect of developing a partnership with MTN to create an emerging market telecom powerhouse,” said Bharti chairman, Sunil Bharti Mittal. “Both companies would stand to gain significant benefits from sharing each other’s best practices in addition to savings emanating from enhanced scale. We see real power in the combination and we will work hard to unleash it for all our shareholders. This opportunity also represents a first of its kind in developing an Indian-African initiative that would serve as a shining example of South-South cooperation,” he added.

The deal would be expected to enable further African and Asian expansion from the merged company. However, the deal is not yet done, and it is believed that last year’s talks collapsed over the question of control, a contentious issue that has derailed a number of high profile industry mergers in the past.

Nonetheless, emerging market players have long been expected to mount challenges on established mature market players, trading on the scale they have built in high growth territories. Analysts have pointed to Bharti’s investment in submarine cable as an indication that the firm has truly global ambitions and it is conceivable that the combined firm could make a play for a presence in developed markets.

About the Author(s)

Mike Hibberd

Mike Hibberd was previously editorial director at, Mobile Communications International magazine and Banking Technology | Follow him @telecomshibberd

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