Vodafone rules out bidding for MTN in wake of Bharti offer

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Vodafone yesterday insisted that it had no plans to make a bid for MTN, a leading mobile phone operator in Africa and the Middle East.

The UK group last week reviewed the case for making a bid for MTN after Bharti Airtel, India’s largest wireless operator, made an informal offer for a controlling stake in the Johannesburg-listed company.

Bharti’s indicative offer was for 51 per cent of MTN’s equity at R160 per share. That valued MTN’s entire equity at about $37bn.

“We have no intention of pursuing an offer for MTN,” a Vodafone spokesman said yesterday.

People familiar with the matter could not rule out Vodafone changing its stance in the future, and making an offer for MTN, but they added such a move was highly unlikely.

Vodafone has been focused on trying to secure control of Vodacom, South Africa’s largest mobile operator, but those efforts suffered a setback late last year.

Vodafone owns 50 per cent of Vodacom, and Telkom, South Africa’s leading fixed-line phone company, owns the remainder.

Telkom had been holding talks with Vodafone about selling its Vodacom stake to the UK group, but those discussions were terminated in November, and have not resumed.

The Vodafone spokesman said yesterday: “We are committed to Vodacom and if the opportunity arises to increase our stake in the company then we would look to enter into discussions with Telkom.”

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