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Bharti Airtel walks away from MTN

26 мая 2008

Bharti Airtel, India’s largest mobile operator, has broken off talks with MTN, the South African telecoms group, dashing hopes for a deal that sought to forge one of the world’s biggest emerging market telecoms alliances.

Bharti on Saturday blamed differences over the structure of the proposed deal rather than funding for the collapse of the talks. The company confirmed it had received ”confident” letters from US and European banks pledging $60bn of funding for a deal worth as much as $44bn.

MTN proposed that Bharti become a subsidiary of MTN, according to a Bharti statement.
The South African group also sought a majority of shares in Bharti Airtel held by the Bharti family and SingTel, the Singaporean telecoms operator, in exchange for a controlling stake in MTN.

”MTN has now presented a completely different structure from what was agreed,” Bharti said.

The structure proposed by MTN would have ”compromised the minority shareholders of Bharti Airtel and also would not capture the synergies of a combined entity,” the Indian group added.

Bharti’s unusually descriptive statement hinted at disappointment over its dashed aspirations of becoming a global telecoms group.

”Bharti’s vision of transforming itself from a home grown Indian company to a true Indian multinational telecom giant, symbolising the pride of India, would have been severely compromised and this was completely unacceptable to Bharti,” it said. A spokesman said talks would not be re-started.

The merger would have created a telecoms powerhouse in emerging markets, with more than 120m customers in 22 countries across south Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Bharti’s statement also shed light on how close the intense but ”cordial” talks with MTN came to sealing a deal.

The Indian operator confirmed it was in exploratory talks with MTN earlier this month. An in-principle agreement was reached on May 16 and a term sheet initialled by the two lead bankers for the companies. This was presented to the MTN board on May 21.

Bharti’s offer price for MTN shares was agreed and frozen at the starting of talks. ”There was no further discussion on the share price of MTN, at any point,” said Bharti.

But talks reached an impasse when MTN proposed a new structuring for the combined entity, and negotiations broke down late on Friday.

”Accordingly, Bharti has decided to disengage from the ongoing talks and has conveyed the same to MTN,” said Bharti.

MTN would not comment on Bharti’s insinuation that the South African company was to blame for the collapse of the talks. In a brief statement, Nozipho January-Bardill, a company spokesperson, said: ”In line with regulatory obligations, MTN will update shareholders as the market opens on Monday morning.”

Bharti’s statement did not reveal its proposed offer price for MTN. However, the Financial Times reported this month that Bharti was considering paying between R165 and R175 a share, which would have valued MTN’s equity at $41bn-$44bn.

Bharti and MTN had been discussing a management structure for the proposed merger under which executive positions would have been shared. One proposal would have seen Sunil Bharti Mittal, Bharti’s chairman, as chairman of the merged company, and Phuthuma Nhleko, MTN’s chief executive, as chief executive of the combined entity.

In spite of the failed talks with MTN, Bharti stressed it remained keen to expand internationally.

Источник: Financial Times

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