India's Bharti May Raise Offer to Control MTN: WSJ


India's Bharti Airtel is considering raising its offer to around 175 South African rand ($22.63) a share for control of mobile operator MTN Group, the Asian Wall Street Journal said on Monday.

"There is no official bid yet, and MTN management insists that it be a minimum 200 South African rand per share," a person familiar with the situation was quoted as saying.

The official bid could still be the original 160 rand to 165 rand, "depending on the terms of the agreement, how big of a stake MTN is willing to sell and other factors," the source said.

He did not elaborate but said Bharti, India's top mobile operator, could make an official offer for South Africa's MTN Group this week.

Media reports have said Bharti is eyeing a stake of 51 percent at a value of around $19 billion, which would create the world's sixth-largest mobile company with 130 million subscribers in more than 20 countries.

The source said Bharti had been talking to MTN "for quite some time" and that proposals so far include a controlling stake, a full takeover or a share swap.

The newspaper said a Bharti spokesman declined comment.

Bharti and MTN Group said last week they were in talks which may or may not lead to a deal. But Bharti said in a statement it had not made any offer to buy the whole or part of MTN.

Bharti Chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal or other senior management will likely meet some MTN shareholders to persuade them to accept the deal, the Asian Wall Street Journal said.

"It's a charm offensive, and the first contact will probably be with Najib Mikati and members of his family," the source said.

Mikati, a former Lebanese prime minister, and his son Azmi Mikati control London-based M1 Group, which holds a 9.82 percent stake in MTN.