Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

The rumour we reported last week turned out to be true. Acquisitive African mobile operator MTN has bought an effective 44% holding in Botswana’s largest mobile company, Mascom Wireless Botswana Ltd. According to the South African-based MTN, the deal will cost it around US$D128 million. Mascom has a market share of 70% in Botswana and a reported 440,000 subscribers.

In June of this year the cash-rich MTN informed the South African Stock Exchange of its intention to buy a 51% stake in Ivory Coast’s Loteny Telecom (known as Telecel Cote d'Ivoire); it also bought out the entire share capital of Zambia’s Telecel Zambia. The company has yet to comment on press speculation linking it with Iran, where it is believed by some that it may be invited to take over the mobile company set up by Turkcell.

Telecel Cote d'Ivoire has around 800,000 mobile customers and a market share of 46% and MTN’s purchase has already been cleared by the government of the Ivory Coast. The company’s acquisition in Zambia will not be so straight-forward and is subject to regulatory and competition authorities’ approval. MTN claims to be the largest mobile operator in Africa, with operations in Nigeria, Cameroon, South Africa, Uganda, Rwanda and Swaziland.

The operator has made no secret of the fact that it wants to become the developing world’s leading mobile phone company and says it plans to use the revenues it is generating in its largest markets: South Africa and Nigeria, to fund its expansion. However, it is being challenged by Kuwait’s MTC (among others), which recently bought Celtel, Africa’s third-ranked operator.