New Delhi, Sept. 29: Bharti Airtel is expected to announce an initial agreement with South Africas MTN tomorrow, while extending the deadline of the negotiations by a few days.
Sources said the indicative framework of the deal could see Bharti giving more cash to MTN. The duo have been negotiating for more than four months over what was initially a $23-billion cash-cum-share-swap deal, whose third deadline will be over tomorrow.
There can be some change in the number of GDRs being issued and the IDR (Indian Depository Receipts) option could also form part of the indicative framework, the sources said.
They added that the South African telecom operator might not insist on a dual listing as the issue could put the skids under the flourishing bilateral relation between Pretoria and New Delhi.
Eager to retain MTNs national character, South Africa had approached the Indian authorities to consider the dual listing, which was not allowed under Indian laws.
Executives from Bharti said that approvals from the South African government and 75 per cent of the voting shareholders of both the companies was expected within a few days.
Bharti and MTN are working on an alliance that will create the worlds third-biggest telecom operator with about 200 million subscribers.
Last week, the deal had hit a stumbling block when stock market regulator Sebi clarified that a foreign entity would have to make an open offer if its holdings in global depositary receipts or American depositary receipts — with attached voting rights — crossed the 15-per-cent threshold. Previously, the threshold for making an open offer for an additional 20 per cent stake applied only to the direct acquisition of shares.
To go around the GDR issue, the sources said, MTN and Bharti are mulling whether the South African firms shares can be listed in India in the form of IDRs. These are shares issued by foreign companies in India, denominated in rupees and sold to local investors.
Officials with knowledge of the talks said the Indian government would facilitate an IDR issue. Both companies could achieve the same objective (protecting the companies national identities) through IDRs instead of the dual-listed company structure, said officials.