New Delhi: In his first interview with the media after Bharti Airtel Ltd and South Africa’s MTN Group Ltd announced that they were in talks to merge, Sunil Mittal, chairman of the Indian company, sounded confident about his firm’s ability to fund and pull off the deal. Edited excerpts:
What is the status of the Bharti-MTN deal at this point of time?
As we had already mentioned, we are in talks till 31 July, and the contours of the whole arrangement are being worked out. The discussions are going on.
The Mikati family (shareholders in MTN) has come out strongly in support of the transaction. The unions, who had earlier said they may not want and are not happy with the deal, have also come out in support of it now.
These are things which I would assume that MTN will have to take care of on the South African side.
We are currently working on looking at all the structures which are required on the Indian side.
I have no doubt that something that has been jointly thought through and created between Bharti and MTN should be supported by them (shareholders and unions).
The market wants two important clarifications. One is with regard to the open offer. There are some interpretations that an open offer is required in India (according to Indian law, any acquisition of at least a 15% stake in a listed company will trigger an open offer; under the terms of the deal, Bharti will acquire a 49% stake in MTN and MTN and its shareholders, a 36% stake in Bharti of which 25% will be by MTN itself).
We will comply with all the necessary regulations of the land—there is no question. All I can tell you is that a lot of thinking has gone into this structure.
We believe we will be able to convince all the statutory bodies to give us the necessary clearances, approvals and exemptions as the case may be.
The other clarification is, does Bharti have the wherewithal and have the funds been tied up?
As far as funding is concerned, of course (we have the wherewithal). We would not have gone on this path without funding being in place.
What is the quantum of funds that has been tied up as far as debt goes?
Again, I will not give you any numbers. We have huge interest from the banking community to support this deal.
In terms of the current arrangement, you are in talks till 31 July. What is the timeline for the first phase of this structured deal to come through? When will the merger, if at all, happen?
All (is) up in the air. All (is) in the works. Everything is being discussed. You have to allow us, I would say, a few more weeks before we can give you some more clear answers.
Is there any scope at all for the offer being revised? There is already quite a bit of talk and speculation that large institutional investors feel Bharti will revise the offer? Can you clear the air on this?
As I mentioned yesterday, there is really no occasion (to do so).
Other than speculation going on in the media and other circles, there is really no occasion to discuss this issue at this stage.
Is there a band (for the offer price)? Is Bharti open (to revise the offer)? Will this be required?
There is really no occasion. We are currently working on the contours of the arrangement and we are moving forward.
Will you be the executive chairman of the new entity?