RComm and MTN enter into exclusive talks

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New Delhi, May 26 (UNI) After Bharti deserted the MTN deal, its now Reliance Communications which is eyeing the South African major and has started exclusive talks for a period of up to 45 days with respect to a potential combination of their businesses.

''We are delighted to be engaged in exclusive negotiations with MTN Group to achieve a partnership, which would provide investors, customers and the people of both companies a unique and global platform for exponential growth, creating substantial long term shareholder value,'' Chairman Reliance Communications Anil Dhirubhai Ambani said in a statement.

Reliance Communications has been quick to act after its bigger domestic rival, Bharti Airtel, pulled out of talks on May 24 aimed at taking control of MTN.

Bharti had, on Saturday, said it called off talks after MTN proposed a new structure which it said would have seen the Indian firm become a unit of MTN.

Any investment by Reliance will be in addition to the 6.5 billion dollar it is spending this year to build a second wireless network and increase coverage. India added a record 10.2 million subscribers in March and surpassed the US in April as the world's largest mobile-phone market after China.

A deal could create a 63 billion dollar global telecoms giant, dwarfing the 11 billion dollar race Ambani lost last year to Vodafone Plc for majority control of smaller mobile rival Hutchison Essar.

MTN, whose shares have risen more than 20 per cent this year, has a market value of about 38 billion dollars and more than 68 million customers across 21 countries in Africa and West Asia. It is targeting more than 80 million customers by the end of the year.

Reliance, which is valued at just under 30 billion dollars, has about 46 million customers.

UNI PDT SR KN1916

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