What Mohamed Amersi is saying about the Telia deal

Mohamed Amersi
Mohamed Amersi

Mohamed Amersi is generally unknown in Sweden, but in the 2010s he was a legendary dealmaker in the emerging markets of Eurasia. For several years, Telia hired Amersi and his company to facilitate the company’s investments in Turkey, Kazakhstan, Nepal, Russia, and Uzbekistan. 

As background, Amersi says “I have a long experience of doing M&A business in emerging markets. In Latin America for Telefonica, in the Middle East for Etisalat, Oredoo and Zain, in Africa for Etisalat, MTN and Zain, in Russia for Veon to name a few clients. In total, I have participated in transactions corresponding to approximately 1,000 billion Swedish Kronas.” Within these deals, Amersi provided both legal expertise and input from his corporate, finance, private equity, and venture capital experience.

“At the time of Telia’s business in Eurasia, the company had ambitions to become a global player in telecoms, primarily through acquisitions in emerging markets. To succeed in this,” Amersi explains,  “a successful acquisition strategy was required. At that time, the two merging companies – Swedish Telia and Finnish Sonera – already had a presence in Eurasia through the operators Megafon, Turkcell, and Fintur. But the competence of the merged company needed to be strengthened to be able to continue to acquire and manage operators in Eurasia.” As Amersi attests, he is arguably the only person who could both handle the M&A directly, “and had insight into the local culture and could work both sustainably and profitably.”

Amersi reiterates that Telia Sonera was also interested in finding and acquiring operators in other emerging markets. That is why his company was hired for an ongoing role in advisement to merge Swedish-Finnish company. Ultimately, the merger was meant to bring Telia new operators outside of Eurasia, with expansions in emerging countries such as Nepal, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, Iran, and Ethiopia.

It was precisely Amersi’s cultural litheness and familiarity that allowed him to make valuable contributions to the Telia merger process. To Amersi, his role was “about general advice, resolving ownership disputes, understanding local regulatory issues and not least evaluating and concluding agreements with local partners.” These local partners, says Amersi, are often quite powerful and wealthy; their support is key to making any deal.

“But unlike what has been described in the press, it is not about bribes at all. It is crucial that the deal is started in the right way. It must be made clear to the responsible authorities, regulatory units and other authorities and parties that there will be no bribes.” 

Mohamed Amersi

Toward that end, Amersi adds that the collaboration with prominent local partners must be fully established and clarified from the very beginning. This allows for clearly described roles and responsibilities,” as well as clear payment flows. Amersi also says that local partners must be required to co-own the merged entity, giving them a financial stake (and risk) that come with the co-ownership. Amersi’s insistence on the local partners is in fact built on the principle that “value creation in the merged business that profits and dividends can be made. Not through bribes. It is in collaboration with a weak partner that corruption most often occurs.”

Furthermore, Amersi insists that a culture of giving back must be inherent in any merger process. “It is about creating local jobs, education and skills development locally, and not trying to minimize taxes, but paying full local tax.”

Mohamed Amersi

As for his involvement with Telia, Amersi clarifies “My role in this transaction was of a technical nature…I was asked as an advisor to make a check of the valuation made of Telia’s finance function and to be helpful in developing an optimal structure for the transaction. In addition to my assignment, Telia had hired world-leading lawyers with recognized good competence and experience in negotiating and drafting agreements, as well as conducting audits and due diligence.  I, therefore, did not participate in the negotiations themselves or directly in the implementation of the deal or in any part of the review and due diligence.”

Ultimately, it is clear from the investigations and a conversation with Amersi that not a single error was found, or any remark made.  Telia’s auditors also reviewed the relationship between the companies.  Amersi is a man of truth, integrity, and respect; these are his keywords for trust and transactions of all kinds.

About James Cannon

James Cannon is an experienced hedge fund analyst. He has served on the advisory boards for various different Fortune 500 companies as well as serving as an adjunct professor of finance. James Cannon has written for a variety of Financial Magazines both on and off line. Contact James at james[at]businessdistrict.com