Bharti, MTN 'in early agreement on tie-up'

Indian cellphone company Bharti Airtel and South Africa’s MTN have reached a preliminary agreement for their planned $24-billion share and cash swap, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday.

Bharti sweetened its bid to buy 49% of MTN by increasing the cash portion of its offer, Bloomberg said, citing three people familiar with the situation.

“MTN doesn’t comment on market speculation,” said MTN spokesperson Marina Bidoli, adding that the two companies are still in talks until the end of the month.

A Bharti spokesperson said the company would not comment beyond the statements earlier issued on the MTN deal.

The two companies last month extended exclusive talks about a planned tie-up that may yet lead to a full merger.

An earlier tie-up collapsed over sensitivities over who would control what and the new deal—in which both companies will hold a large stake in each other’s businesses—seems carefully crafted to avoid a repeat.

Bharti is the leading partner in the deal. It will consolidate MTN’s business and hold 49% in its South African rival. But MTN will likewise hold 36% in Bharti Airtel once the deal completes.—Reuters

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