Anil Ambani appoints Lazard man to lead on MTN talks

June 3rd, 2008 - 10:31 pm ICT by IANS  

London, June 3 (IANS) Reliance Communications has appointed a veteran London banker and one-time anti-apartheid activist to lead its team of advisers on talks with South Africa’s MTN that could create a giant Indo-African telecommunications group. Ken Costa, chairman of international business at Lazard, will lead Reliance’s negotiations with MTN, the two companies being locked in exclusive talks that could create a company with a market value of more than 35 billion pounds ($ 68.7 billion).

Now a well-known city banker, Costa in his youth was the leader of the students’ council at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, then a centre for anti-apartheid activism, and spoke about his passion for justice in a recent interview.

The current chairman of MTN is 56-year-old Cyril Ramaphosa, a veteran of South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle who resigned key positions in the government after losing the contest to be South African president to Thabo Mbeki in 1997.

Ramaphosa continues to be a member of the executive committee of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa.

Costa, 57, moved to Lazard from UBS last year after more than 30 years with that group.

The Times newspaper said Tuesday the Reliance role will be seen as a coup for Costa, who rivals say was brought in to bolster Lazard’s profile.

The newspaper said Reliance and MTN are discussing an arrangement under which Reliance Communications chairman Anil Ambani will take 34 percent of an enlarged MTN without triggering an obligatory open offer for the remainder of the South African company.

A merger would see the creation of the world’s fourth largest mobile telephone group, after China Mobile, Vodafone and China Unicom with more than 116 million subscribers in India, Africa and the Middle East.

Costa’s past deals include the relocation of Anglo American, the mining giant, from Johannesburg to London, and the acquisition of the Ritz by the Barclay brothers, Sir David and Sir Frederick, in 1995.

Earlier this year he advised Olivant, the investment vehicle owned by the former UBS executive Luqman Arnold on its failed bid for Northern Rock.

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