Mumbai: Bharti Airtel is not looking to sweeten its offer to buy a stake in South Africa`s MTN, the Indian firm`s head said in a media interview, even as MTN shareholders have said they want a better price.
Bharti and MTN, which have been in exclusive talks since May aimed at creating the world`s No 3 mobile firm, on Thursday said they were extending the talks till September 30, which analysts and investors said could be because of pricing issues and a complexly structured deal.
"We are not really looking at sweetening the deal," Bharti Airtel Chairman Sunil Mittal told a television channel in an interview, excerpts of which were reported by the Economic Times newspaper before its full screening.
"There are no contentious issues over the deal structure," Mittal said.
"We are looking at administrative issues, the process of seeking permissions and working towards a scheme of arrangement that is acceptable to all."
Some MTN shareholders, including South Africa`s Public Investment Corporation which holds about 21 percent of MTN, have indicated they expect a higher price from Bharti as they feel 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 the structure announced on May 25.
Shares in Bharti Airtel, valued at about USD 31 billion, were up 1.7 percent in BSE that was up 0.6 percent at 0754 GMT. On Thursday, Bharti shares fell 1.2 percent, underperforming the broader market that gained 1.4 percent.
Bharti and MTN are negotiating a USD 23 billion complex cash and share swap deal aimed at an eventual full merger. The two companies had also held talks more than a year ago, but they broke down over who would control a merged entity.
The companies have extended their exclusive talks twice this year after negotiations were revived. They had earlier extended talks by a month to August 31.
"Complexity seems to be one of the key culprits for the further extension," Morgan Stanley analysts wrote in a report on Thursday after the firms said they were extending talks.
"Our concern though is the longer the wait the more of a potential sweetener may be required as attention switches to 2010 earnings rather than 2009," they said.
Mittal said in the interview he was "very hopeful" of a deal before the new September 30 deadline.
The newspaper, citing an unnamed person it said was familiar with the matter, said the deal could be done by mid-September.
"In all cross-border transactions of this nature, it takes time to complete documentation and due diligence," Mittal said.
"I am very hopeful of a deal before that (September 30). But it`s never done till it`s done. In deals of this nature and size, there is never complete certainty," he said.
A Bharti spokesman said he had nothing to add beyond the statement released on Thursday. Bharti holds its shareholders` annual meeting at 1000 GMT on Friday.
Bharti Airtel shareholders okay a dividend of Rs 2/share
Telecom services provider Bharti Airtel Ltd today said its shareholders on Friday approved a dividend of Rs 2 per equity share, adopted the profit and loss account and the cash flow statement for the year-ended March 31, 2009.
The shareholders approved the dividend to be given by the company and other appointments at its 14th annual general meeting held on Friday, Bharti Airtel said in a filing with the Bombay Stock Exchange.=
The shareholders ratified the re-appointment of Akhil Gupta, Ajay Lal, Arun Bharat Ram and N. Kumar as directors liable to retire by rotation, it said.
The shareholders also adopted a resolution to appoint Quah Kung Yang, Nikesh Arora and Craig Ehrlich as directors liable to retire by rotation, ii said.
They also gave their nod to appointment of S R Batliboi and Associates, chartered accountants, as statutory auditors to hold office till the conclusion of next annual general meeting, it added.
Shares of the company closed at Rs 411.50, up 2.86 percent from the previous close on the BSE.