Bharti, MTN shares jump after deal called off

Bharti, MTN shares jump after deal called off

Johannesburg: Shares in South African mobile firm MTN and India’s Bharti Airtel rose on Thursday, a day after political and regulatory concerns caused the groups’ potential $24 billion tie-up to collapse.

MTN shares rallied on relief that the transaction, which would have created the world’s third-biggest mobile operator, was called off, as many investors had wanted a higher valuation for MTN than Bharti had offered.

“We are quite positive (about) the deal (being) called off. We thought that the deal in its initial format, the price (for MTN) was not high enough," said Pallavi Ambekar, a fund manager at Coronation Fund Managers.

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Bharti shareholders would now be able to refocus on the firm’s business profile, which one player said looked healthy.

Macquarie analysts led by Shubham Majumder said in a research note: “With the MTN deal overhang removed the market will return its focus to Bharti business fundamentals, which we see as compelling,"

Bharti shares were up 4.2% to Rs436.5 by 2:36 pm, down from a high at Rs467. The 30-share BSE index was 0.1% higher.

MTN was 4.6% higher at 127.84 rand, outpacing a firmer JSE Top-40 index of blue chips.

MTN requested the Johannesburg Stock Exchange to suspend trading in its shares on Wednesday afternoon after news of the collapse in talks pushed its stock down as much as 3.5% to 119 rand.

Talks between Bharti and MTN collapsed for the second time in just over a year on Wednesday over South Africa’s reluctance to allow a flagship company to lose its national character.

The tie-up, which faced close scrutiny from regulators and politicians, could have led to a full-blown merger.

MTN shares opened 1.84% higher and rallied as much as 3.86% in the first 90 minutes of trade on Thursday. Around 7.1 million shares were traded — 116% of the stock’s 30-day daily average trading volume.