MTN scoops top awards as talks with Reliance continue

By Fakir Hassen, IANS,

Johannesburg : South African mobile giant MTN continues to remain silent on its discussions with Indian company Reliance Communications, halfway through a two-week extension of an exclusivity talks agreement, but has been very vocal about two major awards it has won.

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MTN won the inaugural African Business of the Year and Brand of the Year awards presented in London by the Commonwealth Business Council (CBC) African Business Awards.

The award ceremony was part of the annual G8 Africa Business Forum organised by the CBC, Business Action for Africa and the UN Office for Partnerships. Organised by IC Publications in association with the CBC, the African Business Awards celebrate the rapidly transforming business landscape in Africa by promoting entrepreneurial excellence, world class best practices in business and greater visibility for African brands and companies.

The choice of MTN for this award shows why first Bharti Airtel and now Reliance have been keen to team up with a company that has a presence in 21 countries across Africa and the Middle East.

The African Business of the Year award recognises companies that have shown outstanding returns and growth rates coupled with innovative working techniques, and the development of staff and the community it operates in.

The Brand of the Year award recognises companies that have achieved outstanding brand recognition in the past 12 months, with wide appeal and wider recognition both in Africa and worldwide. This award is applicable tobranding and re-branding exercises. MTN was nominated along with five other business leaders.

Nozipho January-Bardill, MTN group executive (corporate affairs), said in a statement: “MTN is proud of this award which is an acknowledgement of the progress we have made in building our business and our brand over the years. It is a tribute to our leadership, our staff and all our stakeholders who participate in our business in various ways. We are grateful to the organisers for this recognition.”

But MTN is still silent on its talks with Reliance Communications, with a spanner put into the works by Reliance Industries. This follows reports that a Mumbai court last week heard an in camera challenge by Reliance Industries head Mukesh Ambani that his sibling Anil’s Reliance Communications could not enter into any deal that involved a change of control without allowing Mukesh an opportunity to exercise his pre-emptive rights in this regard.

Analysts here said the dispute between the Ambani brothers could lead to court proceedings that would drag on for a long period, promoting views that it could hamper MTN’s ambitions in India.

There have also been rumours among analysts here that MTN might even reopen negotiations with Bharti Airtel.

MTN continues to remain silent on any developments, as has been their style since talks of a possible deal with Bharti Airtel emerged three months ago. That deal was scuppered when MTN, which had believed that it would become the holding company of the new merged group, was reportedly upset by a statement from Bharti about its vision of “transforming itself from a home-grown Indian company to a true Indian multinational telecom giant, symbolising the pride of India”.