MTN shareholders demand more from pact with Bharti

MTN shareholders demand more from pact with Bharti

Johannesburg: Shareholders of MTN Group Ltd said they want more for their stakes in Africa’s biggest wireless firm after it reached a $24 billion share-purchase accord with Bharti Airtel Ltd.

Bharti sweetened its bid to buy 49% of MTN by raising the cash portion of its $14 billion offer, three people familiar with the matter said. MTN’s minority shareholders will be able to opt for an all-cash payment, the people said, asking not to be named before an announcement this month. MTN and its shareholders are set to buy 33% of Bharti for about $10 billion, they said.

“We wanted all cash and we wanted a higher price," said Pallavi Ambekar, a Cape Town-based analyst with Coronation Asset Management Ltd, which holds about 5% of MTN. “An all-cash offer is great, but it doesn’t address the price issue."

Shareholder objection may block the world’s biggest cross- border deal this year. The transaction is aimed at creating a mobile-phone carrier with annual sales of $20 billion and 200 million wireless subscribers from Johannesburg to Mumbai. The accord would need the approval of 75% of MTN’s shareholders, some of whom said Bharti should raise its offer from a bid disclosed in May.

As part of the deal, Bharti is offering $4 billion in stock and $10 billion in cash to MTN shareholders, the people said. MTN minority shareholders would have the option of a stock-and- cash or an all-cash payment, they said. Two of MTN’s biggest shareholders, M1 Group and South Africa’s Public Investment Corp., would take an all-stock payment, if necessary.

Meanwhile, Bharti may pay lenders as much as 3.2 percentage points more than the London interbank offered rate (Libor) as it seeks to borrow $5 billion to buy a stake in MTN, said three people familiar with the matter.

The company is in talks with eight banks including Barclays Plc and Citigroup Inc. for between $3 billion and $4 billion of five-year dollar loans priced over the London benchmark, said the people, who asked not to be named because they aren’t authorized to discuss terms.

The firm also plans to borrow between $1 billion and $1.5 billion in rupees from State Bank of India and Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd, the three people said.

The three-month Libor for dollars, a benchmark for borrowing costs, was last set at 0.2987%, the data show. The rate for pounds was last at 0.6413%. Bloomberg

(Katrina Nicholas and Andrea Tan in Singapore, Cathy Chan in Hong Kong, and Harichandan Arakali in Bangalore contributed to this story.)