Bharti and MTN discuss sharing top roles

Monday, May 19, 2008

India’s Bharti Airtel and South Africa’s MTN are discussing a management structure for a proposed merger of their emerging-markets telecoms businesses under which they would fill an equal share of key executive positions.

Sunil Bharti Mittal, Bharti’s chairman, would be chairman of the merged company, and Phuthuma Nhleko, MTN’s chief executive, would be chief executive of the enlarged group, the FT has learnt.

The structure is part of a proposal by Bharti to buy MTN in a cash and stock deal that would enable MTN’s leading shareholders to take significant stakes in the merged entity.

Talks between the two companies that took place in London last week progressed well, said people familiar with the situation, although they said that no deal had been finalised. Bharti is India’s largest mobile-phone operator, while MTN is Africa’s leading wireless handset company. A merger would create a telecoms powerhouse in emerging markets, with more than 120m customers in 22 countries across south Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

The combination would rival the scale of America Movil, the leading mobile-phone company in Latin America. It would be smaller than China Mobile and Vodafone, the world’s largest mobile groups by market capitalisation and revenue, respectively, but a Bharti-MTN group would be a big competitive threat.

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Source: Financial Times (link opens in a new window)