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Mergers & acquisitions

Telkom SA Fields Another Takeover Bid

South African incumbent Telkom SA Ltd. (NYSE/Johannesburg: TKG) is negotiating two separate deals that would see the fixed-line carrier sold to a private consortium, while at the same time offloading part of its stake in mobile operator Vodacom Pty. Ltd. to joint venture partner Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD). (See Telkom SA in M&A Talks.)

Vodafone, which holds a 50 percent stake in Vodacom, is reportedly offering 18.75 billion rand (US$2.45 billion) for another 12.5 percent, with Telkom's remaining 37.5 percent stake likely being spun off to its existing shareholders.

Telkom's largest shareholder is the South Africa government, owning 38.9 percent directly and a 15.3 percent interest through the Public Investment Corp.

Telkom says in a statement that a consortium including local investment firm Mvelaphanda Holdings Ltd., New York private equity firm Och-Ziff Capital Management Group LLC , and other strategic investors offered Friday to acquire its "entire issued share capital," after it began talks with Vodafone on May 14.

"The letter makes it clear that the offer will only be made if a number of pre-conditions are met including, inter alia, confirmation by the Telkom Board that it will unbundle Telkom's entire 50% stake in Vodacom as part of the offer," it says.

That works out well for Vodafone, as it's keen to ramp up its presence in emerging markets and has been looking for an opportunity to acquire a controlling stake in Vodacom. (See Vodafone Eyes Emerging Acquisitions.)

Telkom, which reports its results on June 9, ranks as one of the 10 biggest carriers based in emerging markets by revenues, thanks in part to the mobile business. (See Top Ten: Emerging Markets Carriers.)

Vodacom had 33.9 million mobile subscribers at the end of March in five countries: South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Mozambique, and Tanzania. (See Vodacom Hits 34M.)

Separately, Vodacom is in the process of selling off a 7.5 percent stake to South African firms under a black economic empowerment (BEE) initiative.

Telkom's stock was trading 7.99 percent higher on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange late Monday afternoon at ZAR14.79 ($1.92), having climbed as much as 15 percent to ZAR15.80 ($2.05) earlier in the day.

It's not the first time Telkom has been in talks to sell off both its fixed-line and mobile operations -– the carrier was in similar talks with Vodafone and Mobile Telephone Networks (MTN) late last year. (See Telkom Slumps as Talks Dissolve.) It also turned down an offer from Saudi Arabia's Oger Telecom in March. (See Telkom SA Spurns Oger.)

Telkom isn't the only South African operator up for sale –- MTN is being courted by India's Reliance Communications Ltd. (RCom) after a dalliance with Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL) turned sour. (See MTN M&A Latest and India Wrap: Tensions & Tribunals.)

— Nicole Willing, Reporter, Light Reading

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