‘Reliance favourite to land MTN, Vodafone not to bid’

May 25th, 2008 - 6:38 pm ICT by admin  

London, May 25 (IANS) Reliance Communications has emerged as the favourite in global merger talks with the African mobile phone operator MTN, the Sunday Times reported. After the collapse of talks with Bharti Airtel at the weekend, Vodafone Chief Executive Arun Sarin is to tell shareholders this week that he will not be drawn into bidding for MTN, the paper said, quoting unnamed sources.

MTN and Bharti fell out over the structure of a combined group.

Vodafone had considered a 20 billion pound-bid for the company, which has 68 million customers in 21 African and Middle Eastern countries, before publicly declaring two weeks ago that it would not proceed.

Instead, it is keen to buy out its partner Telkom from their joint venture Vodacom in South Africa.

The paper said Sarin is keeping a keen eye on China’s telecom market, which is restructuring to create stronger competitors to China Mobile, in which Vodafone has a 3.3 percent stake.

Meanwhile, Wall Street Journal Asia quoted people “familiar with the matter” as saying although discussions between Reliance Communications and MTN may not lead to a deal, one option may be to structure a transaction so that MTN buys Reliance Communications.

The paper said MTN may also be in merger talks with other companies, including Emirates Telecommunications Corp.

But WSJ said it may be difficult for MTN and its bankers Merrill Lynch and Deutsche Bank to structure any deal following the collapse of takeover talks with Bharti Airtel.

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