Rumour Mill: Who's bidding for South Africa's MTN?

If you believe the many denials or complete silence, then no one is interested in mounting a bid for MTN, the South African cell phone operator. However, MTN has a board meeting today (5th May) where its management is set to make a decision on whether it wants to go ahead with the sale of a portion of MTN's shares.

While Indian operators Bharti and Reliance have not confirmed they have tabled a bid, those close to MTN believe that both firms have expressed a keen interest in gaining control of MTN. In the recent past Bharti has stated that it wants to expand outside of its home market, naming Africa as a possible investment area.

Both these firms might struggle to secure adequate financing for the deal given that MTN's current market capitalisation stands at around US$35.5 billion, while that of Bharti's is about US$43 billion and Reliance's market price is US$30 billion.

Two global operators, Vodafone and China Mobile, are supposed to be the other contenders, but neither company has made a recent statement of its intentions.  

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Related story:
Vodafone denies MTN talks. Vodafone story