CC and Linklaters steer Celtel and MTC through acquisition

Linklaters steer Celtel and MTC through acquisition” />Clifford Chance and Linklaters have scooped the lead roles on the $3.4bn (£1.81bn) acquisition of African mobile telecoms provider Celtel by Kuwaiti giant Mobile Telecommunications Company (MTC).

Celtel is Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest mobile provider, with coverage in 13 countries and more than five million subscribers.

The acquisition, announced on 29 March, followed an auction process that saw major telecommunications providers from China and the Middle East battling it out to secure the deal.

The transaction demonstrates the growing impact of cash-rich and acquisitive Middle Eastern and Chinese telecoms companies in the global telecoms market – none of the companies bidding for Celtel were European or North American operators.

MTC is one of the Middle East’s largest telecoms players with operations in Kuwait, where it is listed, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon. The acquisition is MTC’s first foray out of the Middle East, with the company publicly stating its ambitions to become a major global telecoms player.

The instruction is a boon for Clifford Chance’s telecoms group, with partners Ewan Cameron and Joachim Fleury leading on the deal. The firm has a longstanding relationship with MTC and also advised Celtel some years ago on its plans to go public.

Meanwhile, Linklaters, which also has an existing relationship with Celtel, fielded two teams led by Charlie Jacobs on the M&A side and Steve Thierbach on the IPO side because the auction was run on a twin track with a possible IPO of Celtel as an alternative.

The $3.4bn deal was funded in part through cash and in part through debt provided by National Bank of Kuwait, UBS, CSFB and Barclays, all represented by Allen & Overy.

Africa and China offer unrivalled potential growth for telecoms companies. Handset penetration in Sub-Saharan Africa currently stands at just 2-3 per cent, compared with 80 per cent in the UK market.