The UAE’s Emirates Telecommunications Corp (Etisalat) said on Monday it is evaluating a possible bid for South Africa’s MTN, which is also a potential target of India’s top mobile operator.

Etisalat chairperson Mohammed Omran said his company was looking at MTN, Africa’s largest mobile phone operator, as it seeks to boost revenue from the continent to at least a quarter of total revenue within four years.

“We are always looking for expansion in Africa,” Omran told reporters at a telecoms conference in Cairo. “We are evaluating MTN, among other companies.

“I see within three to four years that revenue from Africa will not be less than 25 percent,” Omran said. He did not give further details about a possible bid for MTN.

MTN, with a market value of around $36-billion and with 68,2-million subscribers in 21 countries in Africa and the Middle East, has long been the target of takeover speculation as mobile phone companies seek to expand in Africa.

India’s Bharti Airtel and MTN said this month they were in talks that may or may not lead to a deal.

Media reports have said Bharti is eyeing a stake of 51% 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.

A source familiar with the situation told Reuters on Monday Singapore Telecommunications Ltd is actively involved in potential takeover talks between Bharti and MTN.

The source said it was premature to speculate if SingTel – Bharti’s largest shareholder with a more than 30% stake – would provide any form of financial support to Bharti for a bid for MTN as the deal was evolving.

SingTel, southeast Asia’s largest phone company, declined to comment.


The Asian Wall Street Journal, quoting an unidentified source, said on Monday that Bharti was considering raising its offer to around R175 South African a share for control of MTN. It said an official bid could come this week.

MTN shares traded up 3,3 percent at R158,35 at 12:25 GMT.

China Mobile Ltd, the world’s biggest mobile carrier, has said it is interested in the South Africa market, but has not bid for MTN.

Vodafone Group, the world’s largest mobile phone group, said on Sunday it has no intention of pursuing a bid for MTN. It was responding to media reports that it was considering making a bid for part or all of MTN.

Government-owned Etisalat, which operates in 16 countries and has 51-million customers, has been on a four-year, $5 billion spending spree, setting up mobile operators in Egypt and Saudi Arabia as well as buying a stake in a Pakistani unit.

In December, it said it would buy 16 percent of PT Excelcomindo Pratama Tbk to enter Indonesia, the world’s fourth-most populous country. It is also starting an operator in Nigeria.

Shares of Etisalat closed 0,23 percent higher at 21,40 dirhams.