Regulatory hitches threaten Bharti-MTN deal: reports

NEW DELHI, September 21, 2009 (AFP) – India’s top mobile firm Bharti Airtel and South African cellular flagship MTN are ready to sign a tie-up deal but regulatory issues could stymie a final agreement, reports said Monday. “The deal is all set, agreed and legally ready to be signed,” the Business Standard newspaper quoted an unnamed source close to negotiations as saying.

But the Business Standard and The Economic Times say a final agreement could be blocked by the issue of whether India would allow the merged company to be listed on both the Indian and South African stock exchanges.

A dual listed company (DLCs) involves two listed companies that have different sets of shareholders but share ownership of a single business operation. South Africa allows dual listing while India does not.

The South African government, which indirectly holds over 21 percent in MTN, said earlier this month it was unwilling to sacrifice the firm’s “South African character” and raised the possibility of dual listing as a compromise.

India media reports say the two firms have worked out details of the proposed 23-billion-dollar cash-and-share swap deal. The merged company would have over 200 million subscribers and 20 b