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MTN ends deal talks with Reliance

21 июля 2008

South Africa's MTN Group Ltd. and India's Reliance Communications Ltd. Friday said they were unable to pull off a merger due to certain legal and regulatory issues.

In a statement to the Johannesburg securities exchange, MTN said the companies have mutually agreed to allow an exclusivity agreement to lapse.

The pair have been in exclusive negotiations since late June over a possible combination that would have created a cellphone network operator with almost 120 million subscribers across Africa, the Middle East and south

MTN July 9 said an original 45-day exclusivity period would be extended until July 21.

People familiar with the matter had cautioned a deal might be derailed by a dispute between Anil Ambani, the billionaire chairman of Reliance Communications, and his estranged brother, Mukesh Ambani.

Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries Ltd. has claimed it has the right of first refusal on any sale of Reliance Communications shares, and said that it would take court action to enforce its rights and possibly add MTN as a defendant.

Amid a slew of claims and counterclaims by both parties, MTN had grown increasingly jittery over the feud between the two brothers and wasn't keen on signing a deal with the threat of a lawsuit lingering, people familiar with the matter told Dow Jones Newswires.

Enmity between the pair dates back to the death of their father, Dhirubhai Ambani, in 2002 that resulted in the family business being split into a group of companies including Reliance Communications and Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries.

Talks between the two telecom operators recently centered on Anil Ambani's likely sale of his 66% in Reliance Communications to MTN in a share swap. Under this scenario, Anil Ambani would emerge as the biggest shareholder of the merged entity but Reliance Communications would become a subsidiary of MTN.

The combination of Reliance Communications and MTN would have created one of the world's top 10 mobile operators, with Anil Ambani the largest shareholder in the Johannesburg-based company and co-chairman of the merged entity, people familiar with the talks have said.

MTN, which has a market value of almost $32 billion, launched operations in
South Africa in 1994 and has steadily expanded across the continent and into the Middle East. By the end of March, it had 68.2 million customers in 21 countries.

Источник: Total Telecom

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