Johannesburg: South Africa’s Communications minister Siphiwe Nyanda has expressed reservations over telecommunications major MTN’s proposed deal with Indian telecom giant Bharti, media reports say.
In an interview to Business Times Nyanda said MTN is a “South African company with a footprint in Africa ... and we are interested that it should remain (here).”
Bharti and MTN are in exclusive talks till 30 September for a potential $23-billion deal that would create a combined entity having more than 200 million subscribers.
As per the proposed transaction, Bharti would snap up 49% in MTN while the South African company would have a 36% “economic interest” in the domestic firm.
The report further quoted Nyanda as saying that the government had “not come out in support” of the deal. He said it would only look at it when it was concluded “because it would still have to come to (us) for ratification or support”.
Nyanda further told the South African daily, “what we have said is that we will not support any agreement that does not take South African interests into consideration—and this is a general statement for anybody who wants a (local) company and a (local) brand to give away its South African-ness.”
Though Nyanda accepted that the deal could have benefits for the country (South Africa), he noted that MTN, “through government help”, had expanded into Africa.
Earlier this month Bharti in a statement had said “the discussions are still on,” but added that it has not reached any preliminary agreement with MTN regarding the proposed transaction.
Meanwhile, the South African Treasury had said it is processing an application from telecom major MTN related to various exchange control regulations for the proposed transaction with Bharti Airtel.
The South African government had also said it had not taken any stance on the proposed Bharti-MTN deal as talks between the companies were still going on.