Sunil Mittal’s best, eventually, wasn’t good enough to see the deal between Bharti Airtel and South Africa’s MTN go through.
While the deal fell through because the South African government decided to get involved, it also fell through because the Indian government decided not to—other than making polite statements about how it was keen on the deal.
South Africa is in the midst of painful change. In cricket, this meant it lost a player of Kevin Pietersen’s stature to England. In business, it has meant a demand from indigenous South Africans for a stake in previously white-only businesses. It also means a significant sense of national pride in home-grown businesses such as MTN.
South Africa was right to demand a dual listing for the companies in India and South Africa. And India, where politicans are only too eager to play cheerleader to global mergers involving Indian firms, was right to refuse to consider the dual listing issue because it would have meant a major change in its laws.