Report: South Africa's MTN in talks to buy Nigeria's Visafone

MTN is reportedly in talks to buy Nigerian fixed and mobile operator Visafone to strengthen the South Africa-based operator's position in its most important market.

According to Reuters, which cited unnamed sources, the deal should be signed soon. Neither MTN nor Visafone has confirmed that talks are taking place, and it is also unclear how much MTN would spend and how big a stake it would buy.

Visafone started operations in 2008 following the acquisition by business tycoon Jim Ovia of three CDMA network operators with a combined subscriber base of 30,000 and coverage in different parts of Nigeria.

The company increased the number of its CDMA subscribers to almost 2.2 million by the end of 2014, according to information from the Nigerian Communications Commission. That makes it the largest CDMA operator in the country, accounting for most of the CDMA subscribers. The company also had around 54,000 fixed/fixed wireless subscribers by the end of last year.

MTN Nigeria Communications is the country's largest GSM operator with close to 60 million subscribers by the end of 2014. Reuters noted that this amounted to about 27 per cent of its entire subscriber base across 22 countries. Nigeria also accounts for more than a third of MTN's revenue.

In its domestic market of South Africa, MTN is also said to be mulling the acquisition of a majority stake in fixed-line operator Telkom. The two operators are still working on the terms of an agreement regarding an extension of an existing roaming deal to include bilateral roaming and outsourcing of the operation of Telkom's radio access network. The two companies have been locked in talks for almost 18 months.

South African rival Vodacom, meanwhile, is still waiting for regulators to decide on its planned acquisition of ISP Neotel. The country's third-largest mobile operator Cell C also recently said it will invest ZAR8 billion (€629 million/$667 million) in building an LTE network over the next three years.

For more:
- see this Reuters article

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