Shares in Bharti Airtel rose Tuesday as investors awaited an announcement by the top Indian mobile firm and SA’s flagship group MTN on plans for a groundbreaking tie-up.
Shares of Bharti Airtel rose 1% percent or 4,50 rupees to 418,85 a day before the deadline to conclude negotiations on creating an emerging market telecommunications powerhouse.
The estimated US$24bn alliance could prove the world’s biggest cross-border deal this year.
The deadline for conclusion of discussions, which have already been extended twice, was Wednesday.
Talks have gone on since May between MTN, Africa’s largest cellular group, and Bharti, aimed at forging a cellular giant with annual revenues of more than $20bn and 200m customers.
Analysts said the two sides may come out with an agreement paving the way for a complex cash and share swap that was first announced in May and would give both companies a minority stake in each other.
But the second broader objective, a full merger of the groups, could take much longer, analysts say, especially because of SA worries about preserving the national identity of MTN.
The SA government, which indirectly holds more than 21% in MTN, said earlier this month it was unwilling to sacrifice the company’s “SA character” and raised the idea of dual listing as a compromise.
But allowing dual-listed companies would involve big changes in India’s foreign exchange and stock market laws, something the government says cannot be done immediately or to facilitate one corporate deal.
The Indian government said Tuesday it had received no request for dual listing to be allowed from either Bharti or MTN. “Our officials had some discussions with the SA authorities. They have explained our legal position” on dual listing, finance secretary Ashok Chawla told reporters.
The Press Trust of India quoted SA government officials as saying they had yet to get a briefing from officials who met Indian regulatory authorities last week.
Many analysts said it was difficult to assess the outcome but they believed the companies would announce a third extension of the talks. “The two parties may come out with preliminary details, which may be possible before the end of the month, but there’s no way a deal can be concluded,” said investment analyst Rajay Ambekar of Prudential SA.
“We’ll most likely see another extension,” Ambekar said earlier.
Indian premier Manmohan Singh met SA President Jacob Zuma on the sidelines of the G20 summit of rich and emerging nations late last week in Pittsburgh to say he supported the deal. Singh said he told Zuma he “sincerely hoped this deal would go through”.
“It has been agreed this matter can be further discussed with the government of SA,” he added.
Still, analysts say even if a deal is reached, MTN shareholders may not be happy over the price. An agreement would need approval from 75% of MTN’s shareholders, some of whom have said the offer is too low. — Sapa-AFP