MTN left with single bidder, Voda goes own direction

Having attracted great interest when it first gave indications that external investors might be welcome, the South African cell operator, MTN, could now be left in the embarrassing position of only having a single bidder--Bharti Airtel.

Vodafone, China Mobile and Etisalat have all cast their eyes over the sprawling empire of MTN, and have backed away--although Etisalat just might reappear. This move by these three giant operators--each of which has publicly stated they have keen intent to expand into developing markets, especially South Africa--must say something about MTN.

To compound the problem, Bharti may have to raise its offer price from Rand 165 a share to Rand 200--if local shareholders are to be convinced, to gain a controlling stake. The company is said to have approached West Asian sovereign wealth funds to finance its possible purchase, along with the assistance of SingTel which has a 30 per cent holding in MTN.

Having considered MTN, Vodafone has decided to continue with its present strategy of looking for investment opportunities on a country-by-country basis. As such, it is holding talks with the Ghanaian government about acquiring a majority stake in the country's leading telecoms group, Ghana Telecom.

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