MTN gets the green light to merge with iTalk

Zweli Mokgata

Zweli Mokgata

The Competition Tribunal yesterday approved the merger between MTN and iTalk Cellular after a long battle by some interested parties to discourage the deal.

The tribunal heard statements from interested parties yesterday in the final competition hearing for the R511million acquisition of mobile service re-seller iTalk Cellular, where MTN received full support from the Competition Commission. When MTN voiced its desire to purchase the remaining 59percent of the company last year (MTN already owns the other 41percent), Huge Telecoms also made a bid for the company.

However, MTN had pre-emptive rights to purchase the KwaZulu-Natal-based re-seller.

When the Competition Commission assessed the merger late last year, Huge tried to convince the authority that the deal would harm competition in the industry.

Tim Lowry, MTN SA managing director, allowed the commission to play defence and simply explained the impact that the merger would have in KwaZulu-Natal, where the bulk of iTalk's customers are.

"(In KZN) we employ 800 people and iTalk has about 250. It is our intention to merge our call centre with iTalk's call centre. We'll keep some of the outlets and some we'll change but we will offer people places in our distribution (expansion) plans," Lowry said.