Indian legal hitches delaying MTN-Bharti deal: Zuma

Indian legal hitches delaying MTN-Bharti deal: Zuma

Cape Town: The proposed tie-up between South African mobile phone group MTN and Bharti Airtel is being held up by legal problems in India, President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday.

“I am told there are hitches in terms of the law, particularly on the Indian side because you are talking about companies that must come together," Zuma told reporters in Cape Town.

The Bharti-MTN transaction, which would create the world’s third-largest mobile group by subscribers, is subject to an end-September deadline.

But the two companies have extended talks twice before, and a person with direct knowledge of the matter said on Monday it was possible the talks could be further extended by a few days.

Zuma said he was not taking part in the process but added that support for the transaction could come once all the facts are known.

“I think the support will come once one has all the facts and you know exactly what is happening, whether that takes in the South African economy and the companies further," he said. South Africa’s communications regulator Icasa said earlier this week it might not grant approval for the proposed tie-up between MTN and Bharti Airtel this year.

Bharti and MTN were involved in similar talks last year but failed to reach an agreement, leading to failed negotiations.

Bharti has increased the cash component of its offer for a 49% stake in MTN to $10 billion from a proposed $7.6 billion, two people familiar with the matter said last week.

On top of that, Bharti would pay $4 billion in stock for a total package of $14 billion, 7% more than the earlier $13 billion proposed deal.