MTN gets the nod for I-Talk

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

THE Competition Tribunal has approved the merger between MTN and I-Talk Cellular after a long battle by some interested parties to discourage the deal. The tribunal heard statements from interested parties yesterday in the final competition hearing for the R511-million acquisition of mobile service reseller I-Talk Cellular, where MTN received full support from the Competition Commission.

MTN voiced its desire to purchase the remaining 59 percent of the company last year (MTN owns 41percent). Huge Telecoms also made a bid for the company. But MTN had pre-emptive rights to purchase the KwaZulu-Natal- based reseller. When the commission assessed the merger late last year, Huge tried to convince the authority that the deal would diminish competition in the industry.

But Huge changed its tune last week when making its statements to the tribunal. James Herbst, Huge Group chief executive, said: “Huge no longer has any commercial interest in I-Talk. Without a shadow of a doubt, there is no lessening in the mobile communication landscape as a result of this merger. It would be minuscule,” Herbst said.

Though Huge no longer has commercial interest in I-Talk, it still opposes a merger with MTN. Herbst’s argument was that allowing a different company other than MTN to purchase I-Talk would increase competition in the market.

“We would have partnered with a micro-lender or a micro-lender could have acquired I-Talk and advanced contracts to lower LSM customers at a much lower rate than what is currently available.” Thabelo Masithulela, mergers and acquisition analyst at the Commission said: “We are still of the view that the merger should be approved.”

The Times