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Africa: An over-hyped trend

Two multi-billion-dollar telecom deals might well fail to indicate a boom in links between emerging markets and Africa.

It will be a long time before links between Africa and other emerging markets mean much for global investment banks’ profits. Perhaps this view is pessimistic given the announcements last month of two potential deals for billions of dollars involving emerging market firms buying African assets.

Nigeria’s National Council on Privatization said on February 16 that it had received a $2.5 billion bid for 75% of Nigeria’s former telecom monopoly. The bidding consortium, New Generation Telecom, supposedly included China’s second-largest mobile telephone carrier, as well as a group from Dubai, and a Nigerian operator.

But the Chinese firm, China Unicom, promptly denied any involvement in the bid. Some say it reflected wider problems, meaning the incident was hardly a good advertisement for the ease of conducting financial transactions in Nigeria.

The confusion might in some ways mirror the market’s difficulty in determining the exact managers of the sales of nine Nigerian banks that failed a central-bank audit. These sales were meant to attract international players, perhaps including Chinese.

It remained to be seen as Euromoney went to press whether India’s Bharti Airtel would succeed in its proposed $10.7 billion acquisition of mobile-phone assets in 15 African countries from Kuwait’s Zain, also announced in mid-February.

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