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Reliance is Rome and Apollo means Ambani!

May 29, 2008 19:47 IST

Rome is in India, Madrid in South Africa and Apollo, who currently rules Rome, is also seeking to gain control over Madrid!

This may appear a gross distortion of facts, but sums up the talks between investment bankers related to one of the biggest mergers and acquisitions deal in the history of corporate India: between Anil Ambani-led Reliance Communications and South African telecom giant MTN.

As is common practice of key parties associated with high-profile M&A deals being referred to by code names, this time around, Reliance has reportedly become 'Rome', MTN is 'Madrid' and Ambani is 'Apollo'.

There are various permutations and combinations doing the rounds regarding what the final deal structure would be like.

While all that the companies have said is a start of 45-day-long exclusive talks early this week, various media reports have thrown out numerous deal structures quoting unnamed people close to the development and briefed on the matter.

One theory says that Rome would make a 100 per cent buyout offer for Madrid, while other says it would be Madrid taking controlling stake in Rome.

But all the structures point towards a combined entity being created that would figure among the biggest telecom giants in the world and probably the single largest among the emerging economies.

One report in FT Alphaville, the official blog of British daily Financial Times, on Thursday said that Reliance, code-named Rome will make a straightforward cash and shares offer for MTN, which is being referred to as Madrid.

"Discussions on the mix have centered on a ratio of 65 per cent in Reliance stock and 35 per cent cash," it says.

The blog further says that Phuthuma Nhleko, president and chief executive of MTN (whose code-name is not known yet), would become the chief executive of the combined entity for at least three years, with MTN chairman Cyril Ramaphosa becoming co-chairman of the new group, alongside Ambani, for one year.

Later, Apollo (code name for Ambani) would become the sole chairman and Ramaphosa would be vice chairman. The report says the combined entity could remain an Indian company with a secondary listing in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Another probable structure reported in FT blog points towards MTN retaining its South African identity. It entails MTN taking a 51 per cent stake in Rome from Apollo.

Whatever be the nitty-gritty, it has thrown out some interesting code names in the form of Rome, Madrid and Apollo.

In another high-profile M&A deal last year, it was Ruby taking over Diamond. These precious stone names were two key words in a billion-dollar deal to mark the merger of two of the world's biggest media giants: News Corp and Dow Jones.

Ruby was a codename for Rupert Murdoch, while Diamond stood for Dow Jones. Interestingly, these two words were mentioned even in the regulatory filings with SEC.

Similarly, in the Arcelor takeover by Lakshmi Mittal, investment bankers used motorcycle brands as the code names. Arcelor was 'Aprilia', 'Suzuki' was the rival suitor Severstal and Mittal became 'Moto Guzzi.'

In another mega-merger deal in steel sector -- that of Tata Steel's acquisition of Corus, Tata Steel was given a code name of Truro, a South England town in Cornwall.

When bankers were searching for a prospective suitor for Corus, they called the potential sale as 'Project England.'

Later when Tata remained the only serious partner -- that was before Brazil's CSN coming on stage -- the talks were focused on a one-to-one basis and this time the deal was called as 'Project Colour.'

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