South Africans snap pictures on their mobile phones

 So much for emerging-market solidarity.

A proposed $24 billion deal between Bharti of India and MTN of South Africa has fallen apart, not for the usual issues of price or control, but national ego.

The apparent sticking point was that South Africa was eager to retain MTN's national character and had approached Indian authorities to consider a dual-listed entity, a structure that Indian laws currently do not allow.

The opportunity for a landmark deal in southern economic cooperation, one that would have created the third-largest wireless operator in the world, looks lost. After several failed attempts, it is the credibility of their respective governments, not the companies themselves, that is left in doubt.

The message from the South African government is that international buyers can invest in, but not control, the country's companies. UK mining conglomerate Xtrata has been a two-time loser there, having abandoned a takeover plan for Lonmin Plc, then met with roadblocks in its offer to buy Anglo American.

A rickshaw driver rides past Bharti Airtel billboardIndia has been more than willing to help its biggest companies push onto the multinational stage in cars, steel and technology. But international companies looking to buy into India have received rough treatment as well.
  
Every country seems quite happy to have their companies do the buying, but no one wants to see its national heroes sold.