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AfricaWatch: M&A Frenzy

The potential growth offered by Africa's telecom markets is generating a lot of investment activity, with local and overseas firms queuing up to buy into the continent's hottest markets. (See Telecom Market Spotlight: Africa.)

In addition to the ongoing "will-they/won't-they" affair between Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL) and MTN Group Ltd. (the exclusivity period for their merger discussions was recently extended to September 30), and the interest in Zain Group 's African assets, there's activity in the Moroccan and Nigerian markets. (See Bharti, MTN in $23 Billion Talks and Reliance Dreams of Africa.)

In Morocco, a local group of investors has splashed out €800 million (US$1.14 billion) to buy a controlling stake in the country's second biggest carrier Médi Télécom S.A. (Méditel) , which provides both fixed and mobile services in the North African market and boasted more than 8.6 million customers at the end of June this year.

The investors, should regulatory clearance be forthcoming, will pay Portugal Telecom SGPS SA (NYSE: PT) and Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF) €400 million ($568 million) each for their respective 32.18 percent stakes. (See Portugal Telecom Sells Méditel Stake.)

Interest in the Méditel stakes was widespread, with Bahrain Telecommunications Co. (Batelco) , Etisalat , Qatar Telecom QSC (Qtel) , Saudi Oger Ltd. , Telecom Egypt , and Turkcell Iletisim Hizmetleri A.S. (NYSE: TKC) all linked to potential bids.

In Nigeria, the government's latest efforts to privatize Nigerian Telecommunications Ltd. (Nitel) has attracted interest from 13 potential bidders, including MTN Group, Globacom Ltd. , Etisalat's Nigerian operation, India's Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd. (MTNL) , and a consortium including Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), according to this report from This Day Online.

The Nigerian government has been trying to sell a majority stake in Nitel for years, and looked to have sealed a deal in 2006 when it accepted a $750 million bid for a 51 percent stake from a consortium headed by local conglomerate Transcorp. (See Transcorp Wins Auction for Ailing Nitel.)

But that sale was revoked in June this year, with the government accusing Transcorp of failing to meet its investment obligations and failing to pay Nitel's debts.

Other news of interest from Africa includes:

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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