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Bharti Airtel, MTN end exclusive merger talks

01 октября 2009

Bharti Airtel Ltd. and South Africa's MTN Group Ltd. Wednesday ended exclusive merger discussions for the second time, citing the South African government's disapproval of the deal structure in the current form.

Bharti said in a statement it will continue to explore international expansion opportunities.

"This structure needed an approval from the government of South Africa, which has expressed its inability to accept it in the current form. In view of this, both companies have taken the decision to disengage from discussion," Bharti Airtel said.

Trading in MTN shares was suspended on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange until Oct. 1, pending a statement from the South African company.

Exclusive talks between the two companies were due to expire Wednesday.

The South African government was eager to retain MTN's national character and had approached Indian authorities to consider a dual-listed structure, which isn't allowed under existing Indian law.

"We hope the South African government will review its position in the future and allow both companies an opportunity to re-engage," the statement said.

South African officials visited their Indian counterparts late last week to press for a structure that would allow the companies to maintain separate sets of shareholders and still combine cash flows and operations, rather than a traditional merger. But such a "dual-listing" structure would require significant changes to Indian corporate law.

"This seems more like a call by the governments. The Bharti stock is likely to outperform markets by 5%-6% tomorrow," said analyst Nishna Biyani at Mumbai-based brokerage Prabhudas Lilladher.

"As a skeptic we've said that one way of getting a deal derailed is to involve the government," said London-based analyst Martin Mabbutt at Nomura, adding that ultimately he believes the breakdown of the deal was a good thing because the price was too low and the synergy benefits weren't achievable. Nomura has a buy rating and ZAR132.60 target price on MTN.

In May, the companies said they were working towards a deal that would give MTN shareholders a 36% stake in Bharti, while Bharti would get a 49% stake in MTN.

MTN has failed several times to secure a tie-up that would have launched it into the Indian market. Earlier talks with Bharti broke down in May 2008 when the companies couldn't agree on issues of control. MTN then began talks with rival Reliance Communications Ltd. but they also failed.

Bharti, like other wireless operators in Asia, has been looking at emerging markets for growth to help boost its revenue base. Africa remains one of the largest undeveloped markets for telecoms companies.

Bharti Airtel’s shares closed flat at INR418.55 on the Bombay Stock Exchange Wednesday.


Источник: Total Telecom

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