India's Bharti Airtel in Merger Talks With MTN in Africa

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Indian telecommunications company Bharti Airtel said on Monday that it has revived merger talks with MTN Group in South Africa.

Bharti Airtel plans to acquire 49 percent of MTN in return for a 36 percent interest in Bharti Airtel, of which 25 percent will he held by MTN, and the remainder directly by MTN shareholders, Bharti Airtel said.

A merged entity would have US$20 billion in revenue and 200 million customers, Bharti Airtel said.

The two companies have agreed to discuss the proposal exclusively until July 31.

This is the second time Bharti Airtel and MTN have discussed merging.

Bharti Airtel, which counts Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel) as a key shareholder, said in May last year that merger talks with MTN fell through after disagreement on the structure of the deal.

MTN had insisted that after the merger, Bharti Airtel should be a subsidiary of MTN, according to Bharti Airtel. But the Indian company had originally supported a deal with MTN because it wanted to become a global company, not a subsidiary of MTN.

MTN was concerned with maintaining the merged entity as a South African company, sources said at the time.

Subsequent negotiations for a merger between MTN and Reliance Communications, another large Indian communications company, also fell through.

Under the arrangement now proposed by the two companies, Bharti Airtel will have substantial and governance rights in MTN, enabling it to fully consolidate the accounts of MTN.

Bharti Airtel will be the primary vehicle for the expansion of both Bharti Airtel and MTN in Asia, while MTN will focus on expansion in Africa and the Middle East.

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