Telkom South Africa re-emerged as a contender to acquire debt-ridden rival Cell C, Bloomberg reported.

Sources told the news agency the fresh bid comes as talks with fellow rival MTN are advanced, and another option is available from local investor group Buffet Consortium, which acquired a minority stake in Cell C from Blue Label Telecoms earlier this year.

Cell C apparently made no comment about Telkom’s renewed interest, telling Bloomberg only that it remained focused on a restructuring programme, “implementing a revised network strategy and improving overall liquidity”.

But, it added it would carefully evaluate options which would boost its “long-term viability”.

Telkom told the news service it is in talks with an acquisition target, but did not name the company involved.

Bloomberg’s sources said Telkom would assume all control of Cell C’s operations and prioritise a plan to reduce its massive ZAR9 billion ($607 million) debt, which it has laboured with.

In October, MTN South Africa CEO Godfrey Motsa said the nation’s economy could be damaged if Cell C folded, and expressed interest in acquiring the ailing operator.

A deal was also reportedly “imminent” with the world’s largest operator, China Mobile.