TMT
By 21 August, 2009

Bharti Airtel is not considering sweetening its offer to buy a stake in South Africa's MTN, the Economic Times said on Friday, quoting the Indian telecom firm's chairman.

Bharti, India's largest mobile services operator, and MTN have been in exclusive talks since May aimed at creating the world's No. 3 mobile firm. On Thursday, the two companies extended the talks till Sept. 30.

"We are not really looking at sweetening the deal," the Economic Times quoted Bharti Chairman Sunil Mittal as saying.

"There are no contentious issues over the deal structure," he told business TV channel ET Now, the newspaper said. "We are looking at administrative issues, the process of seeking permissions and working towards a scheme of arrangement that is acceptable to all."

Bharti and MTN are negotiating a $23 billion complex cash and share swap deal aimed at an eventual full merger. The two companies had held talks more than a year ago, but they broke down over who would control a merged entity.

Under the revived deal, MTN and its shareholders would take a 36 percent economic interest in Bharti by paying cash and stock and the Indian firm would pay cash and issue global depositary receipts (GDRs) to end up with 49 percent of MTN.

Some MTN shareholders including South Africa's Public Investment Corporation, have indicated they expected a higher price from Bharti, as they felt it should pay a bigger premium for effective control of MTN.

Mittal told the paper the framework of the deal would be in line with what was announced on May 25, when the talks were revived.

The newspaper said a deal could happen by mid-September, citing an unnamed person familiar with the situation.

"In all cross-border transactions of this nature, it takes time to complete documentation and due diligence," Mittal said.

"Discussions and negotiations are going on various points. That's why we have extended the talks till Sept. 30. I am very hopeful of a deal before that. But it's never done till it's done. In deals of this nature and size, there is never complete certainty," he said.

Bharti spokesman told Reuters he had nothing to add beyond the statement released on Thursday.

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