South African-based telecoms group MTN is mulling a potential acquisition in India, Bloomberg cites four people familiar with the matter as saying. The pan-African group has previously sought to enter the market through a mooted takeover of Reliance Communication (RCOM) in 2008 although the deal fell through over concerns that an acrimonious feud between RCOM owner Anil Ambani and his brother Mukesh Ambani – owner of Reliance Industries – might bog down the acquisition in litigation. A tie-up with Bharti Airtel was proposed the following year, but this too failed to come to fruition after the two groups failed to agree terms.
As previously noted by CommsUpdate, MTN revealed in early April that it was willing to spend up to ZAR71.12 billion (USD7.97 billion) on an acquisition and was looking for targets on the African continent, in the Middle East and in Southeast Asia. However, the recent 2G licensing fiasco in India has seen investor confidence plummet, with a number of foreign backers either jumping ship – as is the case with Bahrain Telecommunications Company (Batelco) and Etisalat – or cutting back the scope of their operations: Sistema and Telenor have both trimmed back their footprint to a handful of circles each.