Talks with MTN in progress despite RIL's claim: RCOMM

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New Delhi, Jun 16: Country's second largest telecom service provider Reliance Communications (RCOMM) said Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) had claimed first right of refusal to buy a controlling stake in it, but the mobile operator said this would not delay its tie-up talks with South Africa's MTN Group.

The statement issued by RCOMM late on Friday brought rivalry between its Chairman Anil Ambani, and his estranged older brother Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries, back on the surface after a high-profile feud which had led to the division of the Reliance group. According to sources RCOM and MTN are looking at a structure that would see the South African telecom giant take control of Reliance Communications, with Ambani swapping all or most of his 66 per cent holding in the Indian firm to become the largest shareholder in MTN.

But Reliance Communications said on Friday that Reliance Industries had made a claim of right of first refusal to buy the controlling stake, based on an agreement made when the telecom firm was under the control of Reliance Industries.

RCOMM has been in talks with MTN since late May for a business combination which could create top-10 global telecoms firm with operations in about two dozen countries.

''Reliance Industries' claim is legally and factually untenable, baseless, and misconceived,'' the comapny said in a statement.

Reliance Communications, the flagship of ADAG, had about 49 million subscribers at the end of May in the country's fast-growing mobile market, now the largest in the world after China.

MTN, which has a market capitalisation of about 31 billion dollars, is sub-Saharan Africa's leading mobile operator. At the end of March, it had 68 million subscribers in 21 countries in Africa and West Asia.


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