Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Africa Capex to Decline by 11.8% During 2009

­African wireless capital expenditure spending is forecasted to decline 11.8% in 2009 after growing 16.4% in 2008, according to the latest report from EJL Wireless Research.

"The spending levels for wireless capital expenditures have been sequentially increasing for the first three quarters of 2008 but declined in Q4. Regionally, both the North and South Africa regions declined in 2008 on a year over year basis. With a mobile penetration rate of 35.7% in Africa at the end of 2008, we believe that it will be tougher for mobile operators going forward to make money as APRU continues to decline," says founder and President, Earl Lum.

"Given the economic uncertainty, wireless capital expenditure spending by most of the major wireless operators in Africa will decline in 2009 when compared with 2008. We expect a brief market recovery in 2010 and then a more moderate decline in 2011. The economic uncertainty may also lead to more operator consolidation over the next several years," says Lum.

Glo Mobile Blames Environment Body for Delay in Ghana Roll-out

Ghana's newest mobile network operator, Glo Mobile has complained that it is suffering problems in rolling out its network due to delays in securing permission from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to install its towers.

Glo Mobile is owned by Nigeria's Globalcom and was awarded a GSM operator license last June.

Mr Idowu Olumodeji, Head of Technical-Rollout at Glo, told the Ghana News Agency that the company had had to push back deadlines several times because the EPA had not issued permits for masts. He noted that to date Glo Mobile had submitted over 500 applications for permits to mount masts and other infrastructure in most of the regional capitals, but EPA was yet to issue a single permit.

Mr Olumodeji, who sounded frustrated, said Glo had asked EPA not to wait for all the applications to be complete but to issue permits for those which were complete but the EPA had not been co-operative on that either.

Mr Olumodeji said Glo had millions of dollars worth of equipment sitting at its warehouse waiting to be deployed - as soon as the EPA issues the permits.

For its part, the EPA has only just completed a draft document on the rules for installing base station towers in the country. The document, seen by the GNA calls for more use of co-location on towers to curb their spread - and will ask the telecoms regulator to make co-location mandatory where viable.

“The telecom operators are quick to blame the permit agencies like EPA for the poor quality service. Meanwhile they have not been able to take a single action on co-location since they started discussions on it years now,” said Mr Ebenezer K. Appiah-Sampong, Director of Environmental Assessment and Auditor of the EPA.

The country already has five operators, and according to figures from the Mobile World database, the country had 11.3 million customers at the end of last year. That figure equates to a population penetration level of just 48%.

The five operators (and market share) are: MTN (57%), Tigo (25.7%), Ghana Telecom (14.4%), Kasapa Telecom (2.8%) & Westel that was acquired by Zain (2.4%)

China Mobile Denies MTN Takeover Claim

­Reports in the media that China Mobile Communications Corp. (CMCC) is seeking a partner for a takeover of South Africa's MTN Group have been denied by the firm. The reports, which first emerged in the South China Morning Post, citing unnamed sources said that the company was seeking to be a junior partner in a takeover attempt.

The Chinese carrier is “not aware” of the investment plans reported by the newspaper, Rainie Lei, a spokeswoman for Hong Kong-listed China Mobile Ltd. told Bloomberg News.

The original news report had said that China Mobile had approached or plans to approach companies with a strong African and Middle Eastern presence such as France Telecom; Zain, Orascom Telecom and Etisalat.

It is possible that CMCC is looking at a purchase without using its Hong Kong listed subsidiary, and while this would be highly unusual, it would resolve a key reason given for MTN wishing to sell some of its overseas operations. MTN has subsidiaries in Iran, Syria and Sudan - all countries which the US has trade sanctions against and MTN's involvement in those countries could be causing difficulties in securing US investors. While the listed arm, China Mobile Hong Kong would face the same problems with the US government, the state-controlled parent group, China Mobile Communications would usually have no such qualms.

China Mobile Seeks Partner for MTN Stake

China Mobile is reportedly seeking a junior partner to buy the assets of South African mobile operator MTN in Iran, Syria and Sudan, valued at about USD 2 billion, the South China Morning Post reported, citing unnamed informed sources.

The company has approached or plans to approach companies with a strong African and Middle Eastern presence such as France Telecom, Kuwait's Zain, Orascom of Egypt and Etisalat. The paper's sources said that China Mobile's attempt to buy a minority stake in the MTN units on its own was rebuffed.

China Mobile is looking overseas as its domestic urban markets become saturated and amid forecasts much of the future growth in the sector is destined to come from poorer rural areas. 

Econet Begins Burundi Operations

Mobile operator Econet Wireless has launched its operations in Burundi. The company has for the past year been setting up office, recruiting workers, installing masts and doing preliminary testing. Econet Wireless is now connecting clients for a one-month network testing.

According to East African Business Week, the public has received the new operator with enthusiasm. For quite a while, potential clients were bombarding Econet offices with requests as a result of the sometimes erratic connectivity of the existing service providers. Econet Burundi MD Darlington Mandivenga said during the first 30 days, customers will be connected to test the voice quality and coverage of the network as the technical team fine tunes everything. He said the Econet has "hundreds of thousands" of customers on it waiting list.

Currently, Telecel is the biggest player in the market using the trade name Ucom, with about 295,000 subscribers. The second largest is the state-run Onamob, which has 79,000 subscribers. It is followed by Africell, which recently rebranded to the name Tempo, with 23,000 subscribers.

Yanick Mugisha, the brand manager at Econet told East African Business Week the plan was to have over 100,000 subscribers in the first month. The clincher for Econet may be the SMS interconnection agreement it has signed with the other operators, as to date, mobile users could not send SMS from one mobile operator to the other.

The network testing will cover about 16 provinces where Econet has installed base stations. Econet hopes to cover 94 percent of the country by the time it launches its network in a month's time.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Uganda Telecom & Standard Chartered in Mobile Banking Deal

Customers of Standard Chartered Bank, who subscribe to Uganda Telecom Limited, will now access banking services through their mobile phone handsets.

In this agreement, customers would simply need to register with the bank to have access and thereafter, they would have to press the characters on a mobile phone to get data.

Bank General Manager in charge of Small and Medium Enterprises, Mr Harton Maliki said the bank invested in the new service to enable its customers acquire data quickly and efficiently.

“It is a secure system fordata that is not stored on the Sim card. It is readable and is for downloading by only users,” Mr Maliki said.

The initiative, aimed at increasing access to bank’s services, was announced on Wednesday at the bank’s head offices in Kampala.

“At Standard Chartered, We are continuously developing solutions to respond to the evolving needs of our customers. M-banking - like other recent initiatives from the bank - seeks to enable our customers to do their banking at their convenience anytime, anywhere, any day,” Mr Maliki said.

He said the bank’s M-banking proposition in Uganda provides its customers with a number of services on a unique platform called Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD); a system used by a few banks across the world.

UTL Chief Commercial Officer, Mr Hans Paulsen said the partnership was another way of mobile telephone use penetrating into the world with bank customers now accessing services from their respective places.

Mr Paulsen said the bank service is another way, among the many uses, a mobile phone can be utilised adding that he was optimistic the customers will get the value for their money.
“Utl is proud to be part of growth in mobile penetration and this being one of the biggest social phenomena, which will impact and change the way that we trade and pay as well as bringing affordable and convenient access at your fingertips,” Mr Paulsen said.  

Zambian Communications Minister Defends Herself

Zambian Communications and Transport Minister Dora Siliya on Thursday ended her defence before a special tribunal that was set up last month to probe her alleged abuse of office in the capital Lusaka.

Siliya is alleged to have violated the ministerial code of conduct by arbitrarily cancelling a duly awarded tender for the supply of new radars for two airports in the country.

In the second allegation, Siliya is alleged to have awarded a consultancy contract to a firm based in the Cayman Islands without subjecting the award to a competitive tender in accordance with government tender procedure.

In the third allegation Siliya is alleged to have obtained US$2,300 from the Petauke District Council where she is also a Member of Parliament, claiming to have bought water pumps for the local authority when in fact she had not.

The tribunal was set up in accordance with the law, after ten civil society groups and a former minister of communication and transport petitioned to have the tribunal set up.

The petitioners have already brought in several witnesses who have all given testimony against the minister in relation to the three allegations.

Siliya however opted to take the stand herself and denied any wrong doing in the allegations.

She said she attempted to cancel the contract for the supply of the radars after receiving complaints from the public alleging that the radar contract award had been fraught with corruption, but said her attempt was overruled by the Zambia National Tender Board.

She also defended herself on the second allegation by saying that the consultancy contract was approved by the Solicitor General after he made several legal observations.

She denied wrongly claiming the US$2,300 for the water pumps and insisted that she had advanced her personal money to the council and later correctly sought a refund.

The minister had only one witness, an official from Petauke District Council, who defended her of any wrong doing.

The three man tribunal will now pass judgement as to whether Siliya abused her authority. If so, she could lose both her ministerial and parliamentary seats and face prosecution.

Telkom Gets New MD for Its Business Unit

South African fixed-line operator Telkom has appointed Nombulelo Moholi as the new managing director of its Telkom SA business unit. The 49-year-old Moholi will join the firm in early May.

She is an experienced telecoms executive who, after a formative career as an engineer at GEC and Siemens, joined Telkom in 1994. She spent 11 years at Telkom during which she was promoted to several senior positions, including group executive for regulatory affairs, managing executive for the international and wholesale business and finally chief sales and marketing officer and a member of the Telkom Executive Committee.

Moholi left Telkom in 2005 to join the Nedbank Group, where she has served as the chief strategy and corporate affairs officer and a member of the executive committee for just over three years. Telkom comprises three business units: the Telkom SA business unit, Telkom International and Telkom Data Centre Operations.

Moholi will lead the Telkom SA business unit, which comprises wholesale and network operations and the consumer and enterprise divisions. 

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Cell C Gets New CEO

South African mobile operator Cell C has named Lars Reichelt as the company's new CEO. Reichelt has served as CEO of Banglalink, Orascom Telecom's venture in Dhaka, and as CEO of Telefonica 3G Mobile in Zurich.

Outgoing CEO Jeffrey Hedberg will remain as chairman of Virgin Mobile South Africa and work closely with the management team during the company's re-positioning. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ghana Telecom Staff Prepare for Retirement

­Staff at Ghana Telecom who have taken advantage of the firms recent offer for voluntary redundancy are to benefit from a customized Transition Support Programme which has been developed to help them to manage the change effectively as they seek different jobs after they leave the firm.

Around 850 jobs, out of a total workforce of 4,000 are to be cut in the voluntary program.

Last August, Vodafone completed the acquisition of a 70% stake in state-controlled fixed-line and mobile operator Ghana Telecom for US$900 million on a debt-free, cash-free basis. The Ghanaian parliament approved the sale, despite criticism from the opposition party who believe the shares are undervalued and said that the deal isn't in the national interest.

The programme, which will take the form of counselling and Training is designed to help the staff to obtain a deeper appreciation of the change to enable them make a smooth transition to a new life.

In a statement, Vodafone said that it is concerned that the staff are equipped with basic skills to plan and manage their personal finances better, with particular reference to their disengagement packages. Those desirous of setting up their own businesses will be taken through basic entrepreneurship training, while those seeking regular employment contracts elsewhere will be helped to prepare themselves for a job search to enhance their chances of securing interviews in the organisations they wish to work for.

According to estimates from the Mobile World subscriber tracker, the mobile network ended last year with just over 1.6 million subscribers - equating to a market share of around 27%. 

Tunisie Telecom Delivers BlackBerry into Tunisian Market

Tunisian mobile network operator, Tunisie Telecom has announced the commercial launch of the BlackBerry solution in the country - with the system being supplied by Alcatel-Lucent. Based on its distribution agreement with RIM, Alcatel-Lucent will leverage its local presence in the region to provide Tunisie Telecom the end-to-end implementation, launch, and on-going support for delivering the BlackBerry solution to the Tunisian market.

“As the historical operator in Tunisia, our commitment is to efficiently meet the market demand and provide our professional customer with best of class communications solutions”, said Montassar Ouaili, CEO, Tunisie Telecom. “We are pleased to offer the BlackBerry smartphones - an innovative and revolutionary solution already used by millions of subscribers worldwide.”

“This agreement strengthens Alcatel-Lucent’s leading position worldwide and in the region,” said Vincenzo Nesci, President of Alcatel-Lucent’s activities in the Middle East & Africa. “Tunisie Telecom will expand their business opportunity and enable their customers to benefit from the high flexibility offered by BlackBerry smartphones for staying connected any time and everywhere.”

Figures from the Mobile World tracker show that Tunisie Telecom ended last year with around 4.3 million customers - and an almost exactly 50:50 market share with rival, Orascom Telecom Tunisie

Zimbabwe Orders Cuts in Phone Rates

Zimbabwe’s telecommunications regulator has revised telephone tariffs downwards by up to 40 percent in a move meant to make communication affordable for ordinary Zimbabweans, APA learns here Saturday.

The Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) ordered service providers to slash telephone tariffs by between 25 and 40 percent pending the completion of an ongoing review of the charges.

The review is intended to balance the affordability of services by consumers and the viability of operators.

The move by POTRAZ comes after a massive hike in Zimbabwean telephone charges since January when service providers were first allowed to charge in foreign currency.

The average tariff before the latest POTRAZ order was 30 US cents per minute.

Zimbabwe has four telephone companies, three of which provide mobile telephone services.

The POTRAZ would see telephone tariffs declining to an average 20 US cents per minute.

XOF 29 Billion Raised from Onatel IPO

Burkina Faso has raised XOF 29 billion from the sale of 20 percent of telecoms operator Onatel through an initial public offering of shares. The shares in Onatel, which is 51 percent owned by 
Maroc Telecom, will be listed on the West Africa franc zone regional BRVM bourse based in neighbouring Ivory Coast by 1 May, Alexis Lourgo, MD of lead manager SBIF, told Reuters. 
Investors in Onatel include Burkinabe individuals and companies, and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank.

The Burkinabe state is the biggest shareholder in the firm, retaining 20 percent after Maroc Telecom. 

Thursday, March 19, 2009

MegaTech Invest US$500m to Begin CDMA Rollout

Nigerian telecom operator, MegaTech Networks says that it plans to invest at least US$500 million to roll out a CDMA based network across 23 of the country's 36 states. The company was recently granted a Unified Access Licence from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), which includes support for 3G services.

The company has already signed a US$100 million contract with China's ZTE for network infrastructure supplies. Services are expected to be launched before the middle of this year.

Chairman of the company, Alhaji Aliyu Abubakar said at a recent press conference that the company is seeking an outside investor to assist in financing the national network rollout

MTN Cote d'Ivoire Obtains Finance for Expansion

Citibank has announced the successful closure and signing of a XOF 76.1 billion (US$150 million) financing in favor of MTN Cote d'Ivoire. The bank noted that this is the largest locally raised XOF syndicated term loan facility for an Ivorian corporate borrower.

MTN borrowed the money to finance the capital expenditure requirements of its network rollout and for the consolidation of its existing debt.

The facility, which was launched at XOF 60 billion (US$120 million), has been increased to XOF 76.1 billion (US$150 million) following strong oversubscription from lenders - which makes a change for the current economic climate.

"The successful closure of this loan facility is an indication of the confidence that banks have in our company," said MTN Regional Vice President, Christian De Faria. "It also reflects the confidence that both MTN Cote d'Ivoire and the financial sector have in the Ivorian economy."

"In the past, we had heavily relied on bilateral facilities from individual banks with diverse maturities, terms and conditions," he added. "Now dealing with one single syndicated loan helps us ease the burden of managing several different facilities and further provided the opportunity to redefine our relationship with partner banks."

"The transaction came at a time of significant challenges both in the local and international capital markets," Martin A. Mugambi, Director & Africa Head of Corporate Finance for Citi added, "In this challenging environment, a total of nine local banks were able to participate in this successful transaction which testifies to the strength of the local bank market".

The nine participating institutions are Citibank N.A, Bank of Africa Cote d'Ivoire, Banque Internationale pour l'Afrique de l'Ouest Cote d'Ivoire, Ecobank Cote d'Ivoire, Omnifinance, Societe Generale de Banque de Cote d'Ivoire, Societe Ivoirienne de Banque, Standard Chartered Cote d'Ivoire and United Bank of Africa Cote d'Ivoire.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

SMS Tool For NGO's Has Been Developed

A new SMS based tool has been released which is aimed at NGOs and researchers working in developing countries who use mobile phones to collect data. Today many NGO field workers manually collect information, entering information into a centralised database over time – for example, when returning to headquarters. With the FrontlineForms tool a single mobile phone can be used to collect structured data while off-line. Collected data can then be sent via SMS from a mobile phone in the field to a central database where it can be aggregated, analysed and shared.

Télécoms Sans Frontières (TSF) conducted field-tests of FrontlineForms in Niger – a country of more than thirteen million people in which remote populations live in some of the harshest deserts in the world. “Simplicity is crucial for on-the-ground organisations using data collection and dissemination systems,” said Grégory Rebattu, Niger Representative for TSF. Rebattu continued, “We see a real potential for FrontlineForms to collect important health indicators and monitor cases in remote areas.”

FrontlineForms is an enhancement to FrontlineSMS – kiwanja’s free, multi-use text messaging platform which has helped NGOs in more than forty countries use text messaging to deliver a range of humanitarian and development initiatives. Masabi – a developer of secure mobile applications – built FrontlineSMS and FrontlineForms. Students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology validated the new SMS tool’s architecture with the needs of isolated communities in mind.

“Technologies that advance social change in the developing world will continue to centre on mobile applications and rural community realities,” said Ken Banks, kiwanja.net Founder. Banks explained, “In this sense the potential for FrontlineForms will be fully realised once it gets into the hands of individuals who can and will use the tool to revolutionise ways NGO’s advance rural development initiatives.”

Orange Begins Uganda Operations

Orange has launched mobile telecommunications services in Uganda. The company said its GSM network will be further expanded, not only in terms of coverage but also in terms of services and technologies. 3G broadband services will also be offered in the next few months, following the planned upgrade of the network.

With this launch, Uganda becomes the 15th African country in Orange's international footprint and joins a worldwide community of 123 million Orange customers. Uganda has a mobile penetration rate of less than 27 percent, and four other mobile network operators are already active in the country.

The launch of operations by Orange Uganda follows the acquisition by France Telecom of a 53 percent stake in Hits Telecom Uganda in October 2008. Orange's service offering in Uganda includes a unique national flat rate per second or per minute, a range of international tariffs and an exclusive call-back service. Orange Customer Service will be available from a toll-free hotline 24/7 to answer any queries, provide information or give technical assistance. Orange will use the 079 number prefix and charge UGX 8 per second for on-net calls and UGX 310 per minute to other local networks.

Orange Uganda director Abu Mukasa said SMS to local networks and Orange Kenya will cost UGX 90 and UGX 220 for other international destinations. Orange has signed an agreement with Warid Telecom to share 300 sites. Under the arrangement, the company will build 150 sites and share Warid's 150 sites already in place. 

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Five Years for Two Phone Thieves in Ghana

­Two Ghanaians have been sentenced to five years in jail - with hard labour - after being convicted of being members of a mobile phone snatching syndicate operating in the country's second-city, Kumasi. Kwame Anokye and Yaw Nkansah pleaded guilty to conspiracy and stealing and were convicted on their own plea. A third man is still evading arrest.

The three men were suspected after being in the same taxi as a woman who lost her phone. When the police were alerted, they tried to escape, but one was arrested on the scene, while the other was picked up later.

The two men who have just been sentenced are facing a charge of robbery in another case pending before the court.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Nigeria Mobile Users Up by 55.9%, Hit 63m mark

Nigeria's mobile subscriber base reached 62.99 million at the end of 2008, up 55.9 percent annually. The country's regulator, the NCC said on a quarterly basis, net additions stood at 7.15 million, only just short of the national record of 7.38 million, set in Q2 2008.

According to the regulator, market leader MTN had 23.08 million customers at the end of the year, after having seen a quarterly increase of 2.91 million. In second place, Zain had just under 17.2 million customers. It overtook Glo Mobile in the third quarter last year, due to the latter's loss of customers. In the fourth quarter, Zain posted a net gain of 1.29 million customers, more than double Glo's additions of 0.63 million. At the end of the year, Glo had just over 16 million customers.

With 2.21 million customers at the end of the year, Visafone was the largest CDMA operator in the country and the fourth largest network operator overall. It added 0.98 million customers in the quarter, only its fourth of commercial mobile service.

Meanwhile, Multi-Links added 0.51 million to finish at 1.99 million customers, Starcomms gained 0.36 million to 1.16 million and Reliance added 0.07 million to finish on 0.70 million in its second quarter of operation. The CDMA sector totals 6.05 million customers. The country also counted another 1.31 million fixed wireless lines. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Zain "Acquires 31% of Morocco's Wana"

Middle East and Africa mobile operator has acquired 31% of Morocco's Wana Corporate.  La Vie Eco quoting a reliable source says there has been an exchange of shares between Zain and the Wana share holders, 51% shareholder Ona and INS that has been with a 49% stake.

The report says it is not clear what stake either of the current shareholders have surrendered in the deal.

MTN Launches New Switch for Southern Sudan

MTN Sudan has inaugurated a new Mobile Switching Center (MSC) that will serve MTN’s network in the Southern Sudan region. The network currently covers five cities in the region and is expanding its network to five more this year.

Chief Executive Officer for MTN Sudan, Mr. Hassan Jabber told the Sudan Tribune: "The development of Sudan in general and more specifically Southern Sudan telecom is of paramount importance to MTN. MTN is committed to extend its network coverage to provide the South Sudan consumer to cellular communication access, exciting offers for best value for money and telecom affordability,"

He said MTN is also implementing community development programs to promote economic development for the people of Southern Sudan. "Our role as a corporate citizen towards Corporate Social Responsibility is to provide programs to uplift and empower communities as well as promote positive engagement with the government", he added.

Figures from the Mobile World report that Sudan ended last September with an estimated 9.5 million mobile subscribers - representing a population penetration level of just under 22%. Last April, Zain launched a GSM network in Southern Sudan, having deployed 50 base stations in the main urban areas. Another network Vivacell launched earlier this year.

Southern Sudan is an autonomous region intermediate between the states and the national government. Southern Sudan is scheduled to have a referendum on independence in 2011.

Vodacom to List on JSE as Vodafone Stake Increases

South African mobile operator Vodacom will be listed on the Johannesburg stock exchange on 5 May after joint-owner Telkom distributes a 35 percent stake to shareholders. Telkom is selling its remaining 15 percent stake in Vodacom to Vodafone, increasing Vodafone's interest in the company to 65 percent.

The transactions are subject to various conditions, including the approval of shareholders of Telkom at its general meeting on 26 March. Vodacom issued a pre-listing statement, saying the JSE had agreed to it listing on 5 May and that Telkom would distribute its remaining stake to shareholders as expected. Telkom confirmed it would pay a ZAR 19 per share special dividend to its shareholders.

Vodacom anticipates a dividend payout ratio of about 40 percent of headline earnings for the year ended 31 March 2010. Dividends will be paid semi-annually with the first dividend payable for the first half of 2010.

As Vodacom is to become a public company, there will be changes in the board of directors to ensure an experienced and well-balanced board. The board will consist of thirteen directors of which ten will be non-executive and four of those independent non-executive directors.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Millicom COO Becomes New CEO

Luxembourg based telecoms holding firm, Millicom International has announced that Marc Beuls is stepping down as the firm's CEO - and is to be replace by Mikael Grahne, currently Millicom's Chief Operating Officer.  Millicom operates under the Tigo brand in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Millicom Chairman, Daniel Johannesson, said: “As the Company moves into a new phase the Board believes that our focus on operational excellence should be driven from the top. Mikael Grahne has the experience, personality and qualifications necessary for this new challenge.”

Mikael Grahne commented: “I am delighted to succeed Marc Beuls as Chief Executive. Although I take on this role in a challenging economic climate, I look forward to leading our talented and experienced management team and building on Millicom’s success.

Millicom Chairman, Daniel Johannesson added: “I know that I speak not only for the Board, but for everyone at Millicom, when I thank Marc Beuls for his leadership and substantial contribution over the last 11 years as Chief Executive. He has been responsible for leading the Company through a period of extremely high growth to create the force that Millicom is today in emerging markets. We wish him every success in his future career.”

Marc Beuls commented: “My period as Chief Executive of Millicom has been both enjoyable and immensely fulfilling. I have worked closely with Mikael and I wish him well as he now takes the helm.”

Mikael Grahne (born 1953) joined Millicom in February 2002 as the Chief Operating Officer, having previously been President of Seagram Latin America. Prior to joining Seagram, he was the regional president of a division of the EMEA region at PepsiCo and held various senior management positions with Procter & Gamble. Mr Grahne has an MBA from the Swedish School of Economics in Helsinki, Finland.

Uganda Prepares Phone-Tapping Bill

Uganda’s Minister for Security Mr. John Amama Mbabazi on Monday presented a bill on regulation of interception of communications to the Parliamentary Committee on Information and Communication Technology.

The bill gives powers to the Minister of Security to authorize interception of communication which may be suspected to be a threat to national security or perpetuating crime.

Mbabazi who is also a Member of Parliament told the committee that the interception is specific in nature only targeting communication that is suspected to be involving crime. Legislators were however sceptical that it would invade individual privacy

The minister illustrated with an example of what happened in the United States of America where terrorists sent powder infected with anthrax in envelopes through the post office to various recipients, adding that the US government had to intercept this communication to fight the threat of infecting the public.

He assured the legislators that private communication would not be affected by the proposed bill’s provisions and nor will it gag media freedom.

Some members however argued that the bill might seek to place too much powers in the hands of the Security Minister

Monday, March 2, 2009

Maroc Telecom Wins Mali's Sotelma Bid

Maroc Telecom has agreed to acquire 51 percent of the Mali national operator Sotelma from the local government. The Mali government declared the Moroccan operator the provisional winner of the auction, reports news agency APA, citing a statement from Maroc Telecom.

Maroc Telecom reportedly offered EUR 252 million for the controlling stake in Sotelmea, beating offers from Sudatel and Portugal Telecom. The Mali government will maintain a 20 percent stake in Sotelma. 

Zain Annual Profits up 6 percent to USD 1.2billion

Middle East and Africa mobile operator Zain reported a net profit of USD 1.2 billion for 2008, a 6 percent increase over the previous year. Zain, which is present in 22 countries, recorded revenue of USD 7.44 billion, an increase of 26 percent compared to 2007, while EBITDA increased 15 percent to reach USD 2.78 billion.

Year-on-year customer growth across the two continents in which Zain operates was 50 percent, with the Zain Group serving 63.54 million active customers at 31 December 2008. The Kuwait-based company has recommended a cash dividend of KWD 0.50 per share. During the year Zain committed over USD 3 billion to network upgrades and expansion, primarily in growing markets such as Ghana, Iraq, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.

This is expected to contribute to a further 30 percent increase in many of its financial indicators in 2009. The company raised USD 4.49 billion in September 2008 in a share issue, which will support further expansion. Zain has recently paid back a Murahaba facility of USD 1.2 billion as well as the first installment of USD 525 million for the purchase of Iraqna and several other financial obligations.

The company noted that profit growth was limited last year due to higher borrowing rates in the second half of the year and an adverse USD 138 million currency exchange cost, predominantly in Africa. Zain said it views the world financial crisis as an opportunity to make further acquisitions, given valuations of many prime telecom assets are considerably lower than they were six months ago, and the company is actively pursuing such prospects.

Zain will also adapt its strategy to use share swaps and minority stakes if acquisition opportunities are attractive