The Corriere della Sera reports that the Italian telco is considering making an offer for the Johannesburg-based cellco, which is the second largest mobile operator in South Africa and claimed 74.1 million subscribers in 21 markets at the end of June.
The newspaper says the bid could be financed through the spin-off of Telecom Italia’s network operations and by offering EUR5 billion (USD7.3 billion) of new shares to foreign investors.
A Telecom Italia spokesman was not immediately available to comment. An MTN spokesman said the company did not comment on speculation.
Africa could serve as an alternative to Brazil for Telecom Italia, Corriere della Sera said. The company’s TIM Brasil
broke down this year.
MTN has a market value of $27.6 billion, according to Reuters data.
Shares in Telecom Italia, Europe’s fifth-biggest phone company with a market capitalisation of around $28 billion, were down 1.74 percent at 1.074 euros at 0927 GMT. The DJ Stoxx telecoms gauge was 1.31 percent lower.
Telecom Italia “is a strange suitor for MTN coming from Europe”, said Dobek Pater, a Johannesburg-based telecoms analyst.
“Telecom Italia will be a winner if they are planning to expand into Africa and Middle East.”
Pater added MTN, which is rolling out its fibre optic cable in South Africa, could benefit from Telecom Italia’s fixed-line expertise.
Shares in MTN traded 1.86 percent down at 116 rand by 0924 GMT. The drop was in line with the JSE Top-40 index which was down 1.99 percent.