Bharti May Invest in African Communications Company

Bharti Airtel, a large Indian telecommunications company, said on Tuesday that it has entered into exploratory discussions with MTN Group in South Africa, without providing details.

The communication to the Bombay Stock Exchange in Mumbai follows media reports that the Indian company may acquire a stake in the South African telecommunications services provider. The Financial Times, quoting unnamed insiders, reported on Monday that Bharti had made a bid for 51 percent of MTN that would value the company at around US$37 billion.

Discussions are still at an early stage, are exploratory in nature and may not lead to a transaction, Bharti said.

Indian communications companies are increasingly looking at expanding outside India, including investing in submarine telecommunications networks. Reliance Communications, for example, owns Flag Telecom, a submarine communications services provider.

MTN Group operates in 21 countries in Africa and the Middle East, emerging markets that Indian companies have been eyeing because of their similarity with the Indian market.