September 9, 2009 / 3:02 PM / 10 years ago

Bharti, MTN in early agreement on tie-up-Bloomberg

LONDON, Sept 9 (Reuters) - Indian mobile-phone company Bharti Airtel (BRTI.BO) and South Africa’s MTN (MTNJ.J) have reached a preliminary agreement for their planned $24 billion share and cash swap, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday.

Bharti sweetened its bid to buy 49 percent of MTN by increasing the cash portion of its offer, Bloomberg said, citing three people familiar with the situation.

“MTN doesn’t comment on market speculation,” said MTN spokeswoman Marina Bidoli, adding that the two companies are still in talks until the end of the month.

A Bharti spokesman said the company would not comment beyond the statements earlier issued on the MTN deal.

The two companies last month extended exclusive talks about a planned tie-up that may yet lead to a full merger. For a factbox on the deal, click on [ID:nLL524614]

An earlier tie-up collapsed over sensitivities over who would control what and the new deal — in which both companies will hold a large stake in each other’s businesses — seems carefully crafted to avoid a repeat.

Bharti is the leading partner in the deal. It will consolidate MTN’s business and hold 49 percent in its South-African rival. But MTN will likewise hold 36 percent in Bharti Airtel once the deal completes.

Reporting by Douwe Miedema in London, Gugu Lourie in Johannesburg and Devidutta Tripathy in New Delhi; editing by Elaine Hardcastle

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