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Etisalat Nigeria ‘Not Interested’ in Telkom’s Multi-Links Unit

Etisalat Nigeria won’t bid for Multi-Links, the loss-making CDMA-technology mobile-phone business owned by Telkom South Africa Ltd., said Chief Executive Officer Steven Evans.

“We’re not at all interested in a CDMA business, frankly we don’t see the future in that technology,” he said in a phone interview today. Etisalat Nigeria is 40 percent owned by Emirates Telecom Corp., the United Arab Emirates’ largest phone company. CDMA, or code division multiple access, is the fundamental radio technology used in data phones and networks.

Johannesburg-based Business Report newspaper said yesterday Telkom is in talks to sell the mobile phone unit to Etisalat, citing a letter from a Multi-Links executive it didn’t identify. Telkom plans to exit the unit in the next six months, the company said on Nov. 22, at a cost of as much as $180 million.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. “has been appointed by Telkom to look at the different options that they have for Multi-Links,” Evans said. The bank “approached a raft of different people, including Etisalat Nigeria, to talk with us about whether we were interested,” he said.

A 50 percent cut in tariffs announced by Bharti Airtel Ltd.’s Nigerian unit on Dec. 1 brings the company’s tariffs closer to those charged by competitors, Evans said.

Bharti entered Africa’s largest mobile-phone market with the acquisition in June of the African assets of Zain, Kuwait’s largest phone operator, for $9 billion.

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