October 1, 2009 15:10 telliott
It was one of the most eagerly awaited telecom mergers of two of the world’s largest telecom giants- MTN and Bharti Airtel. In the end, the merger couldn’t materialise even after six month long discussions and efforts and involvements of the governments of two countries. The apparent stumbling block that played a major role in this deal being called off is the protectionist stance of South Africa, which pushed for retention of MTN management in South Africa, and for a “dual listing” structure for the new entity, which would preserve MTN to some extent as a separate South African company with its own set of shareholders.
Bharti said that ‘the South African government is not ready to accept the deal in current form so they have mutually decided to call-off the deal. However they are open to reengage in talks if the South African government changes its stance’.
This statement literally means that South African government played a spoilsport in this possible mega-merger as all other entities (PLC and the Mikati family- the two biggest shareholders in MTN with 23% and 9% stake respectively -and Bharti shareholders) have already given the nod for the deal to go through. This was in complete contrast to what happened last year when the deal was called off because shareholders didn’t agree to the deal. This time even the Indian government was in favour of going through with the deal. The importance of this deal can be gauged from the fact the Prime Ministers of both India and
South Africa discussed the deal at G20 Summit recently and wanted it to go through.
MTN shares fell 3% today after the announcement that the deal was called off.
The statement that the South African government didn’t allow the deal to go through has to some extent tarnished the image of that government and has put it in a bad light.
I think that this deal can still happen. All it needs is an active participation between the governments of both the countries. Operators just need to persuade their respective governments.