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Bharti Airtel Eyeing South Africa Again

06 Dec 2012


Immigration News

 

BHARTI Airtel is said to be looking at acquiring one of South Africa's two smaller mobile operators, either Cell C or 8ta.

A source close to Bharti Airtel Africa said a new play was being made after the 2009 bid for MTN failed. Analysts think this would be in line with Airtel's aim of growing its presence in Africa.

Airtel's failed bid for MTN would have given the Sunil Mittal-run company a foothold in sub-Saharan Africa.

Soon after, Airtel bought Kuwait-based Zain Telecom's African business for $10.7-billion, gaining a presence in 15 of the 17 northern, western and eastern African countries Zain is in.

Sudan and Morocco were omitted from the deal.

By the end of February this year, Bharti Airtel had more than 246-million customers across its operations, but still no presence south of the Sahara.

There was no comment from Cell C or Bharti Airtel, but Telkom said it was not approached and its board was not considering a transaction.

But talk of a Cell C-8ta merger have in recent weeks caused a stir among local industry players after Cell C CEO Alan Knott-Craig said industry consolidation was inevitable for a healthy, viable telecoms market in South Africa and Africa.

Chris Gilmour, investment analyst at Absa, said 8ta's sustainability without Cell C or Bharti was in question. "It's going to be a long grind to get it [8ta] going. To survive a long grind, you need a daddy with deep pockets. Telkom's got no money, and Bharti's got plenty."

8ta's access to a lot of 2.3GHz spectrum, bequeathed to it by Telkom, would make it attractive to another service provider.

Arthur Goldstuck of Worldwideworx said the spectrum could probably not be sold if 8ta was acquired. This spectrum, subject of "tremendous debate" among the other three spectrum-starved operators, was awarded by the regulator to Telkom not 8ta. He said it would make sense for Bharti Airtel to consider another venture in South Africa.

Gilmour said Cell C would be a likelier acquisition than 8ta, but probably more expensive as it was further along in terms of its infrastructure and customer base.

Source: http://www.bdlive.co.za/business/technology/2012/12/02/bharti-airtel-eyeing-south-africa-again


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