Bharti considers MTN buyout

India's biggest operator looks to expand operations in emerging markets

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By  Derek Francis Published  April 30, 2008

Bharti Airtel is considering a bid for MTN, the South Africa-based telecoms group, according to the Financial Times.

"We're always open to opportunities across the globe," Manoj Kohli, CEO, Bharti Airtel, told Bloomberg TV. "We're looking at emerging markets. Of course, the valuations should also suit us."

MTN, along with the likes of Zain and Etisalat, is one of the big regional operators, with operations in several countries in the Middle East and Africa. Any bid from Bharti is likely to attract counter-offers, the FT reported. Sources at India's largest mobile operator reportedly said Bharti was assessing its financing options, in order to acquire a company worth about $35 billion.

One such financing arrangement would involve Bharti buying a 51% controlling stake, thereby reducing the debt it would need to take on, while MTN retains its listing on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. If Bharti were to purchase the company outright, by offering shareholders cash and shares, it would need to make a secondary listing on the stock exchange.

However, the two companies have since denied the news, saying "there is nothing on the table as of now".

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