China Mobile Is Unaware of Investment Plans for MTN Assets

China Mobile Communications Corp. isn’t aware of a plan to seek a partner to acquire assets of South Africa’s MTN Group Ltd. as reported by the South China Morning Post, a spokeswoman at the company’s unit said.

China Mobile has approached or plans to approach companies with a strong presence in Africa and the Middle East to team up with it in bidding for MTN’s businesses in Iran, Syria and Sudan valued at about $2 billion, the newspaper reported, citing people it didn’t identify.

The Chinese carrier is “not aware” of the investment plans reported by the newspaper, said Rainie Lei, a spokeswoman for Hong Kong-listed China Mobile Ltd., the world’s largest mobile-phone carrier. China Mobile continues to seek suitable overseas acquisition opportunities, Lei said.

China Mobile Communications, the parent company, has said it is interested in investing in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. China Mobile doesn’t have a specific target, President Wang Jianzhou said March 19. The company will consider taking controlling stakes and minority holdings in overseas carriers, and is “cautious” about acquisitions, according to Wang.

In 2007, China Mobile Communications bought Pakistan’s Paktel Ltd., its first acquisition outside Chinese territory, for about $460 million.

The Beijing-based company had sought to acquire minority stakes in the MTN units on its own before the plan was rejected, according to the South China Morning Post. The phone carrier aims to be a junior partner in any deal, the English-language Hong Kong newspaper said.

Johannesburg-based MTN is Africa’s largest mobile-phone company.