Friday, May 29, 2009

Iraq Fines Three Mobile Operators

The Iraqi government has imposed fine totaling more than USD 20
million on the three mobile operators in Iraq. The government slapped
fine because they fail to meet minimum standard of service.

Zain is liable to pay USD 18.6 million. The other two companies are
Korek and Asiacell who have to pay a little over USD 1.2 million and
USD 1.1 million respectively. According to a cabinet statement, the
monetary fines were imposed on the firms for continuing bad service.

Transcorp CEO Charged With Fraud In Nigerian Court

Nigeria's anti-corruption police have charged the head of local
conglomerate Transcorp and two other employees with fraud for
embezzling around USD110 million belonging to struggling former
monopoly telco NITEL.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) told a Federal
High Court in the capital Abuja that the managing director of
Transcorp, Thomas Iseghohi, and two other top officials embezzled the
money through the award of dubious contracts, payment of legal and
consultancy fees and media adverts. The three pleaded not guilty to 32
charges brought against them by the EFCC. Trial judge Anwuri Chikere
ordered that they be remanded in prison and adjourned the case to 9
June when their bail applications would be heard.

The federal government sold it's 51% stake in NITEL to Transcorp for
USD750 million in November 2006, retaining a 49% interest. Since then
the telco's initial 500,000 fixed lines in service have dropped to
about 45,000, its workforce has declined from 12,000 to just 2,000 and
the company is USD500 million in debt.

In February 2009 Transcorp agreed to divest part of its shareholding
in the telco and in late March the BPE announced it was offering a 51%
stake in the fixed line operator and 100% of its mobile unit. Earlier
this month the bureau extended the deadline for the submission of bids
for the telco from 4 May to 31 May and relaxed the requirements for
the pre-qualification of interested investors.

Nokia Invites Ugandan Software Developers

Nokia has invited Ugandan software developers to submit their works on
its Internet based platform –Nokia Forum, to win up to Shs68 million.
The invitation offers the software developers a chance to tap into
Nokia global mobile phones market share to earn income.

Ms Dorothy Ooko, the communications manager corporate functions in
East and Southern Africa, told the Kampala Daily Monitor that Nokia
was hunting for software developers in the East African states to give
them a chance to earn the money.
"We are calling on local software developers in Uganda to register
with Forum Nokia and develop applications," Ms Ooko said in interview
last week.

She said any software or application developers in Uganda who
understand the nation's context or information needs can use the
www.forum.nokia platform to showcase their creativity, be voted for
and stand a chance to earn 70 per cent of revenue from the use of the
applications by Nokia phone customers across the world.

She said, all that a participant needs to do is register both his or
her details and application with Nokia for free.
"If your application wins, we put that application on our devices and
everyone can access it on our Ovi store at a certain fee," Ms Ooko
said.

Ovi Store is an evolving media service that consolidates Nokia's
existing content services into a one-stop-shop for free and paid
content.

According to the communication specialist, Nokia - one of the world's
largest maker of mobile phones - has over one billion Nokia phones in
the market that could sign-up for one of these applications. She added
that the software developers will be in position to track the number
of people using their applications.

"We are helping local developers make money," Ms Ooko said when Daily
Monitor asked her about the possibility of people losing their
applications. A visit to Nokia's website www.nokia.com revealed that
participants also stand a chance to win a grand prize of Shs68 million
of the Shs560 million at stake for participants.

Nokia, which has its headquarters in Finland, is currently holding
meetings and educating software developers in Kenya and Tanzania about
the benefits of participating in its online forum competition that is
open until 30 June this year.

Vodacom Introduces Location-Specific Advertising

South Africa's mobile operator Vodacom has launched a new
location-based advertising offering. The location-specific advertising
is currently being trialed on Vodacom's mobile social network, The
Grid, with partners Nando's, Sportscene, Jay Jays and Cape Town-based
pharmacy group Synergy.

The ads are delivered based on a user's (mobile phone) location. The
ads are delivered within a 10km radius of the user, making it possible
to promote a special offer available at a specific store. Through the
new Grid website, location-specific banner ads are delivered to a
user's dashboard once logged in.

A web-based location targeted ad will tell a user how far they are
from the store's physical location, for example "this is a
location-based ad approximately 283m from you". Once a user clicks on
the ads they are taken through to the location of that store on a Grid
map. The ads are charged on a cost-per-click model, making it
affordable and possible for companies and brands to tailor their
advertising needs specific to different stores or promotions.

Mobinil In Network Upgrade With Cisco's Next Generation Protocol

Cisco Systems says that it has been working with Egypt's Mobinil to
deliver a single Cisco Internet Protocol Next-Generation Network
(IP-NGN). The new IP-based infrastructure will help to reduce network
complexity and management costs and enhance network reliability.

"Today and in the future, customers are demanding a significant amount
of data services to be made available via their mobile phones.
Previously, we had a number of complex disparate networks delivering
services to our customers, which were extremely expensive to manage,"
commented Mr. Hassan Kabbani, president and CEO for Mobinil. "We
estimate that if we had not deployed a Cisco platform we would have
had to increase our infrastructure 10-fold in the core network just to
carry all the different services to meet customer needs."

Mobinil will be delivering a suite of data, voice and video services
over a IP-NGN, using Cisco XR 12410 Routers and the Cisco CRS-1
Carrier Routing System.

Posted to the site on 29th May 2009

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Nigeria Seeks Cancellation of 2.3 GHz Licences Issued to Three Firms

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said on Tuesday that it has received a letter from an officer of the Ministry of Communications and Information demanding the cancellation of the 2.3 GHz frequencies licences awarded to three companies.

The NCC statement came amid reactions from two of the licencees, Mobitel and Multilinks, which insisted that the award of the licence to them followed due process.

A statement issued by NCC spokesman, Reuben Muoka, confirmed that there was a meeting on May 22 between the NCC and the Ministry, where Information and Communications Minister, Dora Akunyili, conveyed her intention to cancel the auction.

Muoka said the NCC advised against the idea because of its legal and regulatory consequences.

Controversy had trailed the award of the 2.3 GHz licences to Mobitel, Spectranet, and MultilinksTelkom. A fourth company, Galaxy Wireless, was disqualified because it could not meet the fee payment deadline.

Both Mobitel and MultilinksTelkom insisted on Tuesday that the award of the licence to them followed due process and all international standards.
 
A statement issued by Mobitel said the award was predicated on first-to-pay basis, after all the interested companies fulfilled all the requirements that qualified them for the payment of the fee.

"Mobitel paid the licence fee through SkyeBank through electronic wire transfer three days left clear of the process", the statement said.

It said it has signed several contracts with Nigerian foreign companies to roll-out services by September 2009.

Another statement issued by the Multilinks Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, Ijeoma Abazie, said the company was not favoured in the process.

Uganda Launches Comesa Trade Satellite

Uganda has become the first country in the Comesa regional bloc to launch a satellite communication system, which will promote trade and commerce at reduced costs.

The satellite system - code named the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) VAST (Very Small Aperture Terminal) Satellite - uses high speed internet bandwidth and is going to be rolled out in 21Comesa sites within the next few months.

Launching the Comesa VAST, the State Minister for Trade, Mr Nelson Gaggawala said with the VAST satellite communications equipment in place, Uganda's trade volumes with Comesa member states will increase.

"The system allows countries to exchange information and data on trade and commerce there by reducing their communication budgets. We expect to receive a bandwidth worth 1,064 kbps doubling what we have been receiving in the recent past. Thus you realise that our internet will be four times faster," he said.   

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry, Mr Peter Orone Atipo, said the Comesa bloc takes 40 per cent share of Uganda Uganda's total exports. 

Trade within Comesa region has been greatly hampered by poor information flow. In October 2007, Comesa introduced the idea of joint communications within the Comesa, EAC, Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and Indian Ocean Commission (IOC).

According to the programme, the work will be deployed at the four Regional Organsations: Comesa, EAC, IGAD and IOC in the following countries: Burundi, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Malawi, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

The VAST network is part of the Regional ICT Support Programme funded by the 9th European Development Fund.

The total cost of the equipment, installation and integration is Euro1, 116 million. and will be covered by the project. Member states are required to pay for the operating and management costs for the three months, which for the first three years is Euro1, 447,812.00.       
The total population in Comesa sub region is 400 million people.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

France Telecom's Bid For Mobinil Rejected By Capital Markets Authority

The Egyptian stock market authority has rejected France Telecom's bid to acquire all of mobile operator Mobinil. In a statement, France Telecom said it found the ruling "highly questionable", given that the price of its offer was determined following talks with the market authorities themselves.
 
The company had bid EGP 237 per share, a 58 percent premium on the share price prior to a court ruling giving FT the chance at majority control of Mobinil. The French operator said it is abandoning the bid for now, but it will use "all national and international legal channels" to challenge the securities regulator's ruling.
 
An international arbitration court ruled earlier this year that Orascom Telecom sell its stake in the Mobinil holding company to France Telecom. This will give France Telecom 100 percent ownership of the Mobinil company, which owns 51 percent of ECMS, the mobile operator that offers its services under the Mobinil brand.
 
The Egyptian Capital Markets Authority subsequently told FT to launch a public offer for the remaining shares in ECMS, in which Orascom holds another 20 percent. FT said that as the arbitration ruling was not challenged within the required legal deadlines, it is consequently "executable in its form and substance" as confirmed on 7 May by the District Court of Geneva, the same jurisdictional district as the Arbitration Court.
 
As France Telecom did not receive the Mobinil securities currently owned by Orascom Telecom by 10 April in accordance with the ruling, Orascom Telecom must pay FT a fine of USD 50,000 per day until the transfer. FT said it had tried to negotiate with Orascom Telecom, but these discussions have led "only to unilateral declarations by Orascom Telecom that bear no relation to the legal and financial facts as they stand and that have caused confusion in the market and the public opinion".

Zain Introduces Blackberry Service in Nigeria

Zain Nigeria has introduced a new prepaid Blackberry service to its customers.

This brings to an end the largely exclusive ability of only those people who can afford contract packages, to use the wide array of applications on Blackberry devices.

The development will be of particular interest to owners or employees of micro and small enterprises, who are unable to afford contract packages, but still need enhanced mobile services such as e-mail, web browsing and other business applications.

The new Prepaid Blackberry solution includes the ability for users to use email accounts, browse the internet, view, send and post pictures directly on the web, download applications, schedule appointments, and use other office tools while not being at their offices.

Says Emeka Oparah, Zain Nigeria's spokesman and Head of Corporate Social Responsibility and Public Relations: "We are further strengthened in the telecom business with the introduction of the service for all categories of our customers in our bid to remove communication barrier for all because "no matter the platform you belong, every subscriber irrespective of status is a contributor to our business growth."

The Blackberry services will also be available to customers who travel to other countries and regions, as it will be connected to the borderless Zain One Network, providing connectivity to customers across Zain's Middle East and Africa territories.

A range of BlackBerry smart phones including BlackBerry Pearl 8100 Smartphone, BlackBerry 8820 Smartphone, BlackBerry Curve 8320 Smartphone, BlackBerry Bold 9000 Smartphone, BlackBerry Curve 8900 (Javelin) and BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8220 are already available in Zain shops throughout the country.

Orascom Q1 Profits Down 66% On Account of Forex Losses of $62m

Orascom Telecom reported a 66 percent drop in first-quarter net profit to USD 72 million, hurt by unrealised foreign exchange losses of USD 62 million. The company, which has operations in seven countries, posted a 4 percent decrease in revenues to USD 1.19 billion, while EBITDA fell 9 percent to USD 526 million.
 
Both figures were impacted by the drop in local currencies versus the dollar. OT said its total subscriber base rose to 80.37 million by the end of March, from 78.00 million for end-December and 74.05 million in March 2008, while blended ARPU dipped to USD 5.80 from USD 6.3 in the December quarter and USD 6.60 a year earlier. The company's CEO Naguib Sawiris said in a statement that the first quarter confirmed the company's expectation that economic growth would slow further, leading to a more challenging operating environment.
 
As a result the group has started a programme to reduce operating costs across its operations by 7-9 percent in local currency this year. OT's Algerian operation, Djezzy, performed below expectations, and Pakistan's growth was hurt by political and economic turmoil, while Tunisia and Bangladesh performed well in the first quarter and Egypt was continuing to display solid market growth.
 
Sawaris said the company is evaluating various strategic initiatives to further enhance shareholder value, including a potential IPO for the Algerian and Tunisian operations, consolidation on the Bangladesh market and tower and network sharing in Pakistan.

Senegal's Mineral Water Brand Creates Orange-Flavoured Mobile Service

­Kirène, a mineral water brand in Senegal says that it has launched an MVNO in the country, running on the Orange Senegal network. The mobile service will be branded as "Kirène Mobile avec Orange", with the Mobile Virtual Network Enabler (MVNE) services being supplied by Transatel.

The bringing together of these two groups has been carried out by Philippe Vigneau, Transatel's Director of Business Development. "Being a forerunner for both companies, this project was really important to us. First of all because it was the first partnership concluded in Africa on a brand agreement (with Orange). On the other hand it is the first time that a food-industry brand, turns to a worldwide operator to develop a mobile telephony offer."

Orange is the largest mobile network in Senegal by subscriber numbers. According to the Mobile World, the operator ended last year with just over 3.5 million customers and a market share of 65.6%. The country itself has a population penetration level of 42.5%.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

MTN Finally Enters Kenya Market Through UUNET Acquisition

South African mobile group MTN has finally acquired a 60 per cent stake in Kenyan corporate communications solutions firm UUNET, whose holding firm is also South Africa-based, the weekly EastAfrican newspaper reports.

Senior officials at the Uganda subsidiary of the telecom giant confirmed the transaction, but referred us to the group's head office in Johannesburg, South Africa, for details. MTN Uganda is not officially allowed to comment on the acquisition as it was conducted at headquarters level.

The Johannesburg-based group executive for corporate affairs, Nozipho January-Bardill, also declined to comment on the deal, but said the telecom giant is actively seeking expansion opportunities.

"MTN does not respond to market speculation. The group is committed to its expansion strategy of actively seeking value-creating opportunities in emerging markets," she said in an email.

According to Premium Business Information Source Alacra Store, the group's last acquisition was on March 12, this year — New Clicks Holdings, a Cape Town-based pharmaceutical distributor.

MTN has been trying to get into the Kenya market for some years now. UUNET Kenya spokesman Kenneth Kareithi was more upfront, saying it was a done deal, although both parties were yet to issue a press statement.

"We've not told the media anything on this merger, but we will do so soon," he said on phone.

MTN will now have a chance to go head to head with Safaricom, which has ruled the roost in company performance for three years running.

At last year's CEO's Most Respected Company Survey gala held at Kampala's Serena Hotel, MTN Chief Executive Noel Meier said his company would take on Safaricom as the region's most respected company.

But this is not what industry analysts thought would happen since UUNET — which started out in Kenya in 2001 — is both a mobile operator and a broadband internet service provider, unlike other telecom operators that MTN has courted in the past.

The South Africans missed the first chance to enter Kenya's telecom domain in 2004, when the then Celtel International [renamed Zain in 2008] beat them to KenCell, which was being sold by French telecom company Vivendi.

But MTN's interest in the market did not ebb, buoyed, perhaps, by the realisation that Kenya is the most robust telecom market in the region, going by what Safaricom has achieved — more than 10 million subscribers, the biggest IPO in East Africa and a vibrant mobile money transfer service that rakes in millions.

However, Kenya offers other opportunities, particularly in the emerging data market segment and in business process outsourcing.

Because of this, MTN bid to buy a 51 per cent stake in 2007 in the state-owned Telkom, but lost to French Telecom, which last year rolled out the Orange service brand.

Just last month, there was talk of a possible takeover of Econet by MTN. Econet is Kenya's fourth mobile operator, trading under the Yu brand.
MTN is the continent's largest telecom company. It's drive for expansion comes as operators await the landing of undersea cables on the eastern coast to serve eastern and central Africa.

Once connectivity and call costs become less costly — analysts say by as much as 20-30 per cent — operators will look at growth in the lucrative industry.

MTN will consolidate its already intimidating profile on the continent — its profit went up 44 per cent last year to $1.6 billion while its earnings before interest, tax depreciation and armotisation was $5.22 billion in 2008.

This was a decline of 1.4 per cent from the previous year, but the earnings are expected to jump to $7.67 billion by 2013.

Uganda To get Sixth Phone Operator

Uganda telecom market has continued to grow in times when the world faces global recession. The country has seen a growth in penetration of telcos despite being one of the smallest markets in Africa.

A new firm named Anupam is likely to soon enter the Ugandan telecom market, taking the total number of mobile operators in the country to six.

Uganda currently has five telecom operators including MTN Uganda, Uganda Telecom, Zain Uganda, Warid Telecom, which entered the market in February 2008, and Orange Uganda, which launched in March 2009.

EgyptAir Signs OnAir For Inflight Mobile Services

OnAir, a provider of in-flight communications services, announced on 26 May an agreement with EgyptAir which will see OnAir supplying the airline with full Mobile OnAir and Internet OnAir in-flight passenger communications services for its fleet of Airbus 330-300 aircraft.
 
The twin-aisle aircraft are expected to be delivered over an 18 month period starting August 2010 and will operate on European and North American routes. Passengers will be able to stay connected in-flight using their mobile phones or smartphones to make and receive phone calls, send and receive text messages and emails and access the Internet.
 
Passengers using their laptops to access the Internet will be able to connect to the on-board systems via either wireless or wired connections. OnAir provides both GSM/GPRS and Wi-Fi Internet access.

Kenya To maintain Airtime Tax

The Kenyan government is not minded to lower taxes on mobile phone airtime, despite increasing calls from the mobile network operators for action. The country currently levies a 26 percent duty on airtime top-ups.
 
"The duty paid is important to treasury; if the government scraps the duty, the books will not balance," Uhuru Kenyatta, the minister in charge of finance told IDG News Service.
 
Instead of addressing the prospect of lowering the tax, Kenyatta chose to dwell on the advantages that submarine fiber-optic cables will provide for the mobile phone services sector.
 
"We expect arrival of the TEAMS, SEACOM and EASSY submarine cables to reduce cost of communication and solve the problem of insufficient bandwidth," the minister said.
 
A report commissioned by the GSM Association in Oct 2007 noted that it airtime taxes were lowered or removed, government tax receipts would actually increase as more people will connect and use mobile services, boosting Value Added Tax receipts and stimulating wider economic activity.
 
Mobile specific taxes are levied in Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia

ICASA Cancels Hearings Over Vodafone Stake in Vodacom

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa has cancelled the proposed public hearings on the sale of a controlling stake in mobile operator Vodacom to Vodafone and Vodacom's listing on the stock market. The regulator's intention was to call for public comment on the deal, chiefly under pressure from the Congress of South African Trade Unions, which has been opposing the Vodacom transaction due to concerns about the loss of jobs.
 
Icasa originally ruled in mid-April that the transaction did not require regulatory approval. Then in early May, Cosatu filed a court case challenging the regulator's decision. Icasa said it then became "concerned that the transaction was taking place in a contentious atmosphere" and consulted Vodacom to see if its stock listing, planned for 18 May, could be delayed in order to allow Cosatu's complaint to be heard.
 
Vodacom said it would not delay the listing, and as a result Icasa announced on 15 May that it would hold public hearings to discuss the impact of the transaction. This came the dame day as a court ruling rejecting a request for the Vodacom listing to be suspended pending evaluation of Cosatu's earlier legal complaint.
 
The regulator has now changed its decision again, saying it will not continue with the public hearings in light of the court ruling. Cosatu still wants a legal review to assess whether the deal needed Icasa's approval, and the court is expected to hear the case in August.

Uganda Regulator Puts Off Number Portability Plans

Following a feasibility study, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has concluded that mobile number portability (MNP) is not necessary until the wireless subscriber tally is higher. 'At this stage, number portability is not something we see as a remedy in this market,' Patrick Masambu, executive director of the UCC, said.

'We carried out a study into this and we have the conclusion that there is a certain subscriber sum we need before we introduce number portability because of the costs involved.' Masambu said that MNP will only make sense when there are ten million mobile subscribers in the country.

At the time the UCC conducted the study Uganda had three million users, a figure which had jumped to 8.7 million by the end of 2008.

Zimbabwe's Powertel Introduces CDMA in Bulawayo

Zimbabwe's Powertel Communications, a unit of Zesa Holdings, is set to roll out a CDMA-based wireless in the local loop (WiLL) network in the country's second largest city Bulawayo before the end of the year, reports local news source Sunday Mail Business.

CDMA services are currently only available to customers of incumbent PSTN operator TelOne in the capital Harare and surrounding areas. The Sunday Mail learned that Powertel has already sourced two base stations that will form the basis for the initial network in Bulawayo.

The firm has a strategic partnership with Chinese telecoms equipment provider ZTE Corp, and in 2005 the pair signed a USD35 million deal to support Powertel's national fibre network rollout programme. CDMA facilities in Bulawayo will partly be aimed at offering reliable services to businesses, after suffering problems caused by vandalism and theft of TelOne's equipment.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Korea Telecom Opens Rwanda Office for Fibre-Optic Contract

South Korea's telecom giant, Korea Telecom (KT), yesterday officially opened its offices in Rwanda.  The offices located at Telecom House in Kacyiru will be home to the Korean firm contracted by the Rwandan government to construct a national back backbone project worth US $40m.
 
Officiating at the launch of regional office, ICT Minister Romain Murenzi said that Government has partnered with the Korean firm to lay the fiber-optic cable that will connect the country to the undersea cable and also provide technology, equipment, relevant application materials and training and manage the cable installation process.
 
"Our partnership with KT is helping us to transform the country into the continental ICT hub. In order to develop, we recognise the need to develop the human capacity especially in the areas of Science and ICT to capitalise on the benefits of ICT, which has reshaped the way of doing business" Murenzi said.
 
The backbone is expected to provide high speed broadband internet once complete.
 
In 2008, KT was also contracted to install a wireless broadband network known as the Kigali Metropolitan Area Network (Kigali MAN) accessible to 10,000 people in Kigali with both projects expected to cost $70m in total, as revealed by Nkubito Bakuramutsa, the RDB Deputy CEO in charge of IT.
 
The firm also has the contract to establish the Kigali WiBro, a commercial wireless mobile broadband.
 
The national backbone once linked to the undersea cable off the cost of Mombasa, will cut costs of international connectivity as well as the cost of doing business in Rwanda.
 
With the new infrastructure, the government is targeting to have over 4 million Rwandans gain access to high speed internet within the next two to three years.
 
The project will also increase broadband availability to more than 700 Rwandan institutions, including schools, health-care centres and local government administrative centres.
 
The national backbone is expected to consist of a high-speed fibre-optic network that will link 36 main points in Rwanda's 30 districts, with a 2,300-kilometre cable running across the country.
 
Murenzi added that Government has received US$24 million from the World Bank for the Regional Communication Infrastructure Programme for Rwanda.
 
"We are very confident that our partnership with KT will yield great results as this will serve as a regional office. KT already has some other pending deals within the region," revealed Bakuramutsa.
 
 

France Telecom Bids for Tunisia Phone Licence

France Telecom has submitted a bid for a licence to provide fixed and 2G/3G mobile services in Tunisia, according to a statement from the ministry of technology and communication. As previously reported, a bid was also received from Turkcell in partnership with local investors. The winning company will compete with Tunisie Telecom in fixed and internet services and with Tunisie Telecom and Orascom Telecom in mobile.
 
The 15-year licence is due to be awarded at the end of June, with services expected to start in January 2010. According to press reports, France Telecom submitted a joint bid with Divona Telecom's Tunisian subsidiary.

Bharti And MTN Resume Merger Talks

India's Bharti Airtel has resumed merger talks with South Africa's MTN - after they broke down last year. ­Under the proposed terms of the deal, Bharti would acquire a 49% shareholding in MTN and, in turn, MTN and its shareholders would acquire an approximate 36% economic interest in Bharti, of which 25% would be held by MTN with the remainder held directly by MTN shareholders.
 
Such a merger would create an operator with over USD 20 billion in annual sales and more than 200 million customers. The broader strategic objective would be to achieve a full merger of MTN and Bharti as soon as it is practicable.
 
Sunil Bharti Mittal, Chairman and Managing Director of Bharti, said "We are delighted at the prospect of developing a partnership with MTN to create an emerging market telecom powerhouse. Both companies would stand to gain significant benefits from sharing each other's best practices in addition to savings emanating from enhanced scale. We see real power in the combination and we will work hard to unleash it for all our shareholders. This opportunity also represents a first of its kind in developing an Indian-African initiative that would serve as a shining example of South-South cooperation."
 
The resultant company would continue to be listed on South Africa's Johannesburg Stock Exchange.
 
Singapore Telecommunications, a major existing shareholder of Bharti, will continue to be a strategic partner and significant shareholder after the implementation of the potential transaction.
 
If the deal is carried out, Bharti would be the primary vehicle for both Bharti and MTN to pursue further expansion in India and Asia while MTN would be the primary vehicle for both Bharti and MTN to pursue further expansion in Africa and the Middle East.
 
The companies warned that the discussions are at an early stage and may or may not lead to any transaction.
 
 

Friday, May 22, 2009

Orascom's Bid for Meditel On Stake As Etisalat Makes Bid Too

Naguib Sawiris, CEO of Orascom Telecom, says the Egyptian company's initial bid for a 32% stake in Moroccan cellco Medi Telecom (Meditel) has been trumped by two other interested parties, reports Reuters. He added that his firm was not willing to raise its bid for the stake being offered for sale by Portugal Telecom (PT), which has been valued at between EUR300 million-EUR400 million (USD414 million-USD552 million).

UAE-based Etisalat last week said it would place a bid for a slice of Morocco's second largest GSM network operator, which is also part-owned by Telefonica. The Spanish telco reportedly did not take up an option of first refusal on PT's stake, and is rumoured to be considering offloading its own 32% holding if a suitable strategic bidder is selected by PT. At least one other major Middle Eastern telco is thought to be interested.

SEACOM Close to Completion

East African submarine fibre-optic cable system SEACOM has announced that it is entering the final stages of construction. According to the SEACOM website, the 15,000km, 1.28Tbps cable system is due to launch operations in early July this year.

SEACOM CEO Brian Herlihy said, 'SEACOM is in its final stretch! With the rapid progress of construction, we will soon be providing cheaper and faster bandwidth to our customers. The site acceptance testing was recently completed in Mombasa, and the terminal installation has also been completed in South Africa.'

MyBroadband.co.za has reported that construction of the physical cable system is completed and testing is due to commence in early June. Angus Hay, chief technology officer of Neotel - SEACOM's South African 'anchor tenant', confirmed that the company is preparing end-to-end testing on the cable system. Hay said that this testing will involve the full system which runs from the Neotel point-of-presence in Midrand, South Africa along the East African coast to India and Europe.

Orange Officially Launches in Uganda With Shaggy Concert

Orange Uganda is to officially launch its services to the public with a carnival named the Orange Street Carnival that will be graced with performances by American-based international artiste Shaggy. According to Orange's Head of Branding and Communication in Uganda Anisha Ssekatawa, the event will provide a chance for the public to celebrate Orange's introduction to the ever-expanding telecommunication industry. At a press conference held in Kampala on Thursday, Ms Sekatawa said the company will give away prizes worth Shs30 million.

Orange Uganda is a jointly owned by France Telecom Group (FTG) and Hits Telecom that got a licence in 2007.  Last year France telecom acquired 50% of the stake in Hits Telecom Uganda.  The company commissioned its mobile network on March 11 under the Orange brand, promising quality standards. France Telecoms Group (FTG) has operations in 15 African countries and is one of the world's largest telecommunications companies present in 220 countries with a combined mobile customer base of 122 million.

Orange is the latest entrant into the Ugandan telecom industry, which is also serviced by MTN, Zain, Uganda Telecom and Warid Telecom. Mobile phone penetration in Uganda is expected to increase from 39 per cent in 2009 to 70.7 per cent by 2014, a recent report from Communications Markets in Uganda says .

Orange Uganda has committed 200 million (US$253 million) over the coming three years, with the GSM network to be expanded to provide nationwide coverage, as well as 3G services. Orange Uganda's launch offers include a national flat rate per second or per minute, a range of international tariffs and a call-back service. 3G broadband will be offered within the next few months.

Vodafone Now Eyes Opportunities in Africa, To Use Vodacom

Vodafone is expected to use Vodacom as its vehicle to expand into developing markets in Africa now that it has secured control of the company. Vodacom CEO, Pieter Uys said that the company is looking to take advantage of falling prices to increase its footprint.
 
"If you look at the world there aren't many growth opportunities around; Africa is one of them," Uys told the Bloomberg news agency. "All markets in Africa offer potential for consolidation." Vodafone "has committed to use us" to enlarge its sub-Saharan business and "support us" on potential acquisitions, he said.
 
Vodafone has just increased its holding in Vodacom from 50% to 65%, while South African landline operator, Telkom floated its 35% stake onto the local stock market earlier this week.
 
Vodacom has operations in South Africa, Tanzania, Lesotho, DR Congo and Mozambique. Through its Gateway Communications subsidiary, it offers satellite services in 40 African countries.
 
Uys also added that having a sole dominant shareholder would speed up the decision making process as it would no longer have to submit plans to two separate boards for approval. In addition to acquisitions in new markets, there is also the opportunity for consolidation on crowded markets where Vodacom already operates.
 
In late 2006, Vodafone and Telkom agreed to amend a long-standing shareholder agreement which had blocked Vodacom from investing in operations north of the Equator.
 
 

Maroc Telecom In MAD 10.5 Billion Expansion Bid

Maroc Telecom has unveiled a MAD 10.5 billion investment programme. Maroc Telecom said it had signed the investment programme with the country's government and had undertaken to improve communications infrastructure throughout the country. The investment program will be devoted to the extension and modernization of telecommunications infrastructure and will focus on three key thrusts.
 
The first objective is to support capacity enhancement with the aim of ensuring optimal traffic management and service quality through the use of a next-generation network, while also enabling the deployment of converged services in the fixed-line and mobile services segments in order to roll out unlimited call plans, IPTV and broadband internet.
 
The second objective concerns the enhancement of international transmission capacity via the Atlas Offshore submarine cable between Morocco and Europe, together with the construction of a new fibre-optic line between Laayoune in Morocco and the Mauritanian capital, Nouakchott. The latter line will also serve the southern Moroccan provinces of Boujdour, Dakhla and Aousserd.
 
The third objective involves investments to be allocated to provide coverage across major rural areas and isolated mountain communities as part of the Telecommunications Access Program (PACTE). An additional 7,300 rural areas will be served by the telecommunications network by 2011. Pursuant to the two previous investment agreements, Maroc Telecom made a total investment of over MAD 20 billion during the 2003-2008 period.

Safaricom Revenues Up 15% as Profits Fall 23%

Kenyan mobile operator Safaricom posted a 14.8 percent increase in revenue for its financial year ending 31 March to KES 70.5 billion. Pretax profit fell 23.3 percent to KES 15.30 billion, due mostly to financing costs. Safaricom's subscriber base was up 31 percent to 13.36 million at end-March, from 10.23 million a year earlier, while ARPU fell 22.9 percent to KES 475. Net income declined by 23.9 percent to KES 10.54 billion, and EBITDA came in at KES 27.95 billion, 0.3 percent lower than the prior year.
 
However, excluding forex losses of KES 679 million, EBITDA increased 1.7 percent to KES 28.63 billion, giving an EBITDA margin of 40.6 percent. Safaricom CEO Michael Joseph told a media briefing that there was strong growth in the M-Pesa money transfer service, with 6.2 million registered users compared to 2.1 million in the previous year.
 
Capital expenditure in the year was KES 23.82 billion, increasing the total capital investment since inception to KES 119.8 billion. Joseph said the company delivered strong results despite the difficult economic conditions. The effects of post-election violence experienced in early 2008, high inflation driven by food and oil prices, the global economic crisis and the volatile foreign exchange rates resulting in the weakening of the shilling all combined to reduce the spending power of customers and drive up operating costs.
 
Joseph said competition increased significantly with the entry of two new operators, resulting in increasing tariff pressure and a corresponding reduction in tariffs of up to 40 percent. He said Safaricom continued to enhance and expand its network, requiring capital expenditure to continue at high level in order to sustain its strategy of growth.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Anti-Corruption Body Questions Nigeria Regulator Over WiMAX Licence

Nigerian newspaper Daily Trust is reporting that the CEO of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Ernest Ndukwe, is being questioned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for allegedly contravening due process in the award of spectrum in the 2.3GHz frequency band last week.

The licensing of the WiMAX spectrum, which was slated to fetch the federal government over NGN5 billion, has been embroiled in controversy with petitions to the Presidency and the commission on the conduct of the exercise. The NCC has released a statement in response to the events, which states: 'Executive vice chairman of the NCC, Ernest Ndukwe, yesterday was invited to the office of the EFCC in Abuja, to give his response to a petition filed by the minister of information and communications, Professor Dora Akunyili, who alleged that the Commission did not heed to her directive to stop the ongoing process for the award of spectrum slot in the 2.3GHz band.'

A senior official in the EFCC told Daily Trust that Mobitel Nigeria, one of the companies to be awarded a WiMAX licence, raised NGN1.368 billion by the deadline to pay the fee, but in October last year was said to be indebted to the commission to the tune of NGN246 million, which it was unable to pay. This forced the NCC to waive a total of NGN243 million debt for the company, leaving a balance of NGN3 million for the firm to pay. Mobitel, alongside Spectranet and fixed-wireless operator Multilinks, emerged as winners out of 41 applicants for the four slots in the 2.3 GHz after each of them paid NGN1.368 billion for the frequency used to support to WiMAX technology. Galaxy Wireless was also cleared as a successful applicant, but failed to pay the fee by the deadline. Other unsuccessful applicants faulted the commission on how the whole process was conducted, especially the one week timeframe given to pay the necessary fees.

Ndukwe is also being investigated over allegations of spending money beyond the commission's budget for 2008 and misleading the government in the execution of contracts for the construction of community information centres across the country. A spokesperson for the NCC told the paper that Ndukwe 'wishes to reiterate that the process is transparent in line with the antecedents of the Commission's previous licensing processes. He said it would be unthinkable for anybody to associate him, or any member of the board and management of the Commission, with any of the four companies that participated in the process.'

Orange Kenya Hits 1 Million Subscribers, Targets 20% Market Share

Telkom Kenya's Orange mobile phone service is targeting a 20 percent market share in one year, its chief executive said on Wednesday.
Majority owned by France Telecom, Telkom launched the service in September to challenge market leader Safaricom and Kuwait listed Zain.
 
"Our target in the coming year, in mobile, is market share of 20 percent. One million represents probably a third of it," Dominic Saint-Jean told reporters after announcing Orange had attained one million subscribers in eight months.
 
Of the one million subscribers, slightly over 700,000 are active users, he said. Safaricom has a 77 percent market share.  Telkom is investing 8 billion shillings ($102.3 million) this year in its businesses that include Orange, CDMA and fixed line networks, as well as data services.
Saint-Jean said the firm has also invested in undersea cables like The East African Marine Systems (TEAMS)
 
Along with two other cables, TEAMS is expected to connect Kenya from next month, unleashing a broadband revolution in a region where telecoms have already had a huge impact on life.
 
Mobile operators already provide a wide range of services including money transfer and wireless Internet on 3G platforms.
Industry executives expect increased broadband capacity to be the next big thing in east Africa's biggest economy, and are positioning their firms for a slice of the data market.
 
Saint-Jean said the telecoms sector in Kenya was well developed, but he added that the government has the scope to look into taxes and other regulations to boost the industry. "You never sleep on your laurels ... if we maintain the fiscal equation, it is a limitation. Other barriers are in calls between networks," he said.
 
Kenya has a fourth mobile phone service, Yu, which is operated by Econet Wireless.

Telefonica Willing to Sell Stake in Meditel - Bloomberg

Bloomberg is reporting that Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica is willing to sell its 32% stake in Moroccan GSM network operator Medi Telecom (Meditel) if fellow shareholder Portugal Telecom (PT) succeeds in its attempt to find a strategic buyer for its stake of equal size. The report quotes an insider who wished to remain anonymous.
 
PT recently appointed Morgan Stanley to find a buyer for its Meditel holding, which Orascom Telecom of Egypt and UAE-based Etisalat have expressed an interest in, whilst several other Middle Eastern telecoms investors are reportedly keen to enter the Moroccan market. Quoting a Banco BPI analyst, Bloomberg says that a 32% slice of Meditel is worth USD605 million.
 
The remainder of Meditel's shares are held by a group of Moroccan investors led by Banque Marocaine du Commerce Exterieur (BMCE) and including Caisse de Depots et de Gestion (CDG, a former part-owner of rival Wana).
 

Nokia Introduces New Phones for Emerging Markets

Global mobile phone manufacturing giant Nokia has announced three new reasonably priced handset models, that the company says could bring the goal of having Internet in emerging markets closer to reality.
 
The Nokia 2730 Classic, Nokia 2720 Fold and Nokia 7020 each come Internet-ready, and work with Nokia's range of emerging market services such as Nokia Life Tools and Ovi Mail. These services give customers the ability to easily find information, educational tools and connectivity services like e-mail via mobile handsets.
 
Says Alex Lambeek, Vice President at Nokia: "The power of the internet is undeniable. We've seen mobile technologies catalyze the growth of the informal sector across the world, empowering local entrepreneurs and having an immediate and lasting impact on people's lives. Services like Nokia Life Tools and Ovi Mail, combined with the mobile phones we're launching today, bring powerful solutions that can be the gateway to knowledge, entertainment and people, without the need for a PC."
 
According to in–house research conducted by Nokia, almost 50% of emerging market customers say that they would rather connect to the Internet over a mobile phone than a PC. As a result, Nokia has developed locally relevant packages that consist of affordable mobile phones and applications, designed and built to meet the specific needs of customers in the developing world.
 
Lambeek concludes, "With our longstanding commitment to emerging markets, a Nokia customer can be confident that any product we offer meets a strict and consistent set of high-quality standards. This is particularly important in markets where technical assistance and repair shops are not easily accessible."
 
The new handset models are pegged to be far cheaper than other available Nokia models, with the Nokia 2730 Classic priced at around EUR80.
 
 

Orascom Files Appeal Over Mobinil Stake

Orascom Telecom (OT) filed a court appeal requesting that a sale of its shares in mobile operator Mobinil be rescinded because the buyer, France Telecom, had not met the conditions for the deal.
 
OT said it had asked a Cairo court to cancel the sale of part of its shares in Mobinil to France Telecom as the French operator had failed to pay the price of the shares by the time stipulated in the arbitration award, and related damages. Under an arbitration ruling issued in March, Orascom is obliged to sell the French company its 28.75 percent stake in Mobinil at a price of EGP 441.66 per share.
 
Orascom accepted the ruling but argued that under Egyptian law, France Telecom would also have to buy Orascom's 20 percent direct stake and other minority shareholdings in the Mobinil operating company ECMS at an "equivalent" price of EGP 273.26 per share. France Telecom rejected Orascom's argument, insisting that its compulsory tender for ECMS shares was not covered by the same price formula stipulated in the arbitration ruling for the Mobinil holding company.
 
The French operator instead offered to buy up minority stakes in ECMS at EGP 200, a 33 percent premium to its share price on 5 April. However, this offer was deemed too low by the Egyptian stock market regulator so France Telecom last week came back with an offer with a higher premium.
 
 

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

France Telecom Bids for Mobinil




A unit of France Telecom has submitted an obligatory tender offer to buy all the shares of Egyptian mobile operator Mobinil, Egypt's market regulator said on Tuesday.

The Capital Markets Authority said it was studying the offer by Orange Participations, but gave no further details. A Mobinil spokesman declined immediate comment.



Mobinil, one of three mobile operators in the most populous Arab country, has been at the centre of a dispute between regional operator Orascom Telecom and France Telecom.



Egypt's market regulator had said that France Telecom should tender to buy all shares in Mobinil as part of a court ruling that it purchase Orascom's stake in a holding company that owns 51 percent of Mobinil.



Mobinil posted a 6 percent fall in net income last month for the first quarter of 2009 to 424 million Egyptian pounds ($75 million), missing most analysts' forecasts as it faced higher interest costs.



The Egyptian stock exchange said it had suspended trade on Mobinil shares until the markets authority finishes studying the offer. Shares had jumped more than 6 percent on Monday on speculation of a pending offer to end at 204.97 pounds.

- Reuters

Angola Phone Users Hit 7.5m mark


At least 7.5 million citizens residing in Angola are mobile phone users and nearly 200.000 people use fixed telephone services.

This was said to ANGOP on Monday by the director of the National Communications Institute (INACOM), Domingos Pedro António.



According to the official, who was speaking in the light of the World Telecommunication Day, marked on Sunday, five million of these users are clients of the mobile phone company Unitel and 2.5 million users belong to the other firm, Movicel.


Regarding the fixed telephone service, over 100,000 customers are customers of the of state-owned company Angola Telecom, overcoming the other operators, namely Mundo Startel, MSTelecom, Nexus and Wezacom, the official said.


Except for Angola Telecom, Domingos Pedro António clarified that the other fixed telephone companies have only recently started operating in the national market.


The official considered as positive the telephone services provided in Angola.

Orange Launches "Together" Campaign in Africa

Orange has launched its international brand campaign 'Together we can do more' in Africa on 18 May. This drive co-ordinated by Publicis will run in Senegal, Mali, Niger, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Botswana and Kenya.
 
It is the first time Orange rolls out a single brand campaign in as many countries. The drive features a TV commercial, press and poster advertising. It reflects the group's aspiration to liberate and inspire people with simple ideas and services to help them connect, collaborate and co-create in new and exciting ways.
 
The commercial ends with the statement, "I am delighted because thanks to everyone I can share my experiences with the people I love".

African Internet Governing Meeting Begins in Cairo

The 10th Public Policy Meeting of AfriNIC, the Regional Internet Registry (RIR) for Africa, is currently taking place in Cairo, Egypt. The meeting aims to provide stakeholders with an opportunity to have some input into the future of Internet regulation on the African continent.

AfriNIC is a non-government, not-for-profit, membership based organization based in Mauritius. Its mandate is to administer and serve African Internet Community, with its core function being the allocation and registration of Internet name and number resources.

Membership in the organisation is open to individuals and companies operating online on the African continent.

Participants at the 10th meetings are drawn from among the continent's network operators, AfriNIC members, policy makers, regulators, and other regional Internet registries. The event is being hosted by the National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (NTRA) of Egypt, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology of Egypt, and sponsored by NTRA, MCIT, Internet Society (ISOC), Cisco Systems Inc. (CISCO) and Google.

Nigeria Gains Control of ".ng" Domain

Nigerian individuals and businesses can now register their Internet domain names locally and have them identified as such, rather than having to channel the process through the United States of America and bear foreign or ambiguous appellations.
The protocols for the change over were effected last Wednesday , May 13.
 
Kalu Ndukwe, President of the Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NIRA) announced at the weekend that: "At exactly 4pm GMT May 13, 2009 VeriSign made the ICANN approved root server changes to the .ng ccTLD (Nigerian Country Code Top Level Domain Name ) a few hours later ICANN/IANA ( the Internet Council for Assigned Names and Numbers/Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) effected the board approved redelegation of the Nigerian ccTLD on the IANA website".
 
According to him: "This effectively brings to an end the long drawn desire and expectation of the Nigerian Internet community to effect redelegation of the .ng ccTLD and full local management."
The .ngccTLD is Nigeria's' identity in the cyberspace and this handing over implies that internet names registered here will end in the appellation '.ng' which properly identifies them as Nigerian, rather than the current trend whereby they bear appellation such as '.com' or '.co.uk' or other ambiguous or foreign appellations.
 
Commenting on the development, Lanre Ajayi, president, Nigeria Internet Group (NIG) who is also on the board of NIRA said in an exclusive interview with Business Day : "The implication is that people can now register their domain names through the local registrars instead of the registrar in the US. The significance is that we have control of our domain name. Before now that was done in the US and that was not good enough for our national pride.
 
"This is coming several years after several other African countries have taken control of their domain names. Incidentally, we were doing it for free. Now, we are going to pay because the registrars are business people and they are there to give value and make a living.
"The costs will be competitive and quite affordable because you have 29 registrars competing in this space. You have the registry, the registry and the registrant. The registry manages the domain name, the registrars are the middlemen who will render service to the registrants, who are people like you and I who want to register a name or presence.
 
"It is not a super money generating machine. The concept is to promote internet penetration and local content, not money generation. The money will come with the development of local content and e-business."
 
Kalu Ndukwe, the NIRA president observed that the .ng ccTLD journey started in 1995 with the first delegation to Ibukun Odusote as the then admin contact." By 2004 with the intervention of the former president of Nigeria Chief Olusegun Obasanjo the Nigerian Internet community represented by the G22 reached a consensus on a not for profit all inclusive body to manage the .ng ccTLD. With the formation and final election of the NIRA executive board in May 2007 the stage was then set for conclusion of the redelegation process and fully localize the management of the ng ccTLD
 
"Faced with a lot of challenges as a totally new entity the executive had to concentrate on putting in place the required structure and infrastructure that would sustain the .ng ccTLD. Today that effort has paid off as the .ng ccTLD would be offering its domains in the ccTLD with the most robust technical infrastructure in Africa.
 
"The .ng ccTLD is the only ccTLD with multiple anycast name servers offering local resolutions of .ng domain in over 40 cities in five continents with a 100 percent uptime guarantee. Not only that, Nigeria is the second country in Africa to have a fully automated registry with full EPP access making it of global standard that allows registrars from all over the world to interact with it.
 
" In simple lay man terms what this means is that with the Nigerian registry anyone can register a .ng in seconds and be sure that the name would always be available and visitors to our websites would get translations of our domain names in over 40 local cities making for better web experience".

Zain Kenya Increases Tariffs to Increase Revenues

The price war in the mobile phone market has forced Zain Kenya to review its tariff plan upwards.   Now, the cost of calling from Zain to other networks is Sh12 (US $ 0.16) a minute, up from Sh8 (US$ 0.1) under its prepaid 'vuka' tariff, which was designed to net new subscribers.
 
The new tariff took effect on Saturday and according to Zain Kenya Managing Director Rene Meza, there is no other hidden cost or call set up fee.  The cost of Zain to Zain calls remain at Sh8 a minute, with special offer of calling 10 numbers (friends and family) at Sh3 a minute.
 
Last year, Zain Kenya registered a loss, largely attributed to its low cross-network tariff campaign, Vuka.  The campaign pulled its average revenue per user (ARPU) to record lows and the lowest in Zain's Group of 22 countries at $6 (Sh462) down from $7 (Sh539) in 2007. This is despite the company's growing market share and subscriber numbers.  Its net losses increased to Sh6.9 billion at current exchange rate of Sh77 from Sh1.67 billion in 2007 on lower revenues and increased administrative costs mainly due to costs related to network expansion.
 
The company lowered its tariff in October in an effort to attract new subscribers, but the move hurt its revenues despite growing its customer numbers and probably the reason for the current upward review.
 
For the past few months, mobile operators have been engaged in a price war, which has significantly reduced the mobile tariffs.  Until Saturday, Zain Kenya's Vuka tariff was the third cheapest at Sh8 a minute to all networks. Calling Orange mobile (Telkom Kenya's brand), costs Sh7 a minute within the network and Sh10 across network.
 
Yu, the most recent entrant, charges Sh7.50 a minute to other networks, but one shilling within network.  Calling within the Safaricom network using the Ongea tariff (the most popular prepaid tariff) stands at Sh8 a minute, but Sh15 when calling other networks.
 
Mobile phone subscribers grew by 1.7 million to stand at more than 16.2 million in the quarter ending December last year, according to a report by the Communication Commission of Kenya. The battle for supremacy and subscribers is not only in the tariff platform, but also on Internet and smart phone technology. Zain-Kenya recently launched a new version of Black Berry smart phone, an upgrade of the phone in the market.
 
3G phone
 
The launch came just weeks after Orange introduced iPhone 3G, smart phone.  Safaricom, too, has its own version of Blackberry but has extended tentacles to the masses by introducing cheaper phones.  Its latest entry, Kabambe, has, however, received bitter criticism from users as it breaks down often.  "My Kabambe loses network and no longer has Mpesa and Safaricom functionalities. Worse, I give out my phone to Safaricom for eight days for repair," decried one of the 'Kabambe' users at a Safaricom Customer Care point in Nairobi.
 
 

Paltel Becomes No 24 in Zain Network

Mobile operator Zain has agreed to take a 56.53 percent stake in Palestinian operator Paltel in exchange for Paltel owning 100 percent of Zain Jordan. The combination of Zain Jordan and Paltel will produce a company with annual sales of over USD 1 billion, USD 450 million in EBITDA and USD 300 million in net income in 2009.
 
Zain also expects significant synergies and savings in capital and operating expenses and enhanced purchasing power for the operators. Under the transaction, Palestine will become the 24th territory in which Zain will have a commercial footprint and will eventually join Zain's One Network platform for reduced-cost roaming across the Middle East and Africa.
 
Paltel has a base of 1.5 million active mobile customers and over 363,000 fixed-line customers, as well as approximately 78,000 ADSL customers as of 31 March, while Zain Jordan has over 2.35 million active mobile customers.
 
Under the framework of a strategic management agreement and branding/intellectual property agreement, Zain will bring its experience in managing international operations to Paltel, aligning the Paltel operations with Zain's global ACE strategy and incorporating its propositions such as One Network, mobile-banking services and Zain Create, Zain's new digital entertainment portal. The transaction is expected to close in Q2, subject to regulatory approvals.

Zain Completes Testing of New Broadband Technology

Mobile network operator Zain says it has successfully tested Nokia Siemens Networks' HSPA+ technology in its 3G network. This means that the company is a step closer to a providing superior broadband solutions to its customers.

Zain is the 4th largest mobile network in the world in terms of geographic footprint, with a commercial presence in 23 countries across the Middle East and Africa. The company has more than 64 million active customers.

Says Ahmad Othman, Head of Zain Group Customer Business Team at Nokia Siemens Networks: "The trial is a definite milestone for us. Working in a live environment not only meant customization of existing network elements, but ensuring there was no outage during testing,"

"We delivered on this and more, proving the simplicity and superiority of our solution. We are now looking forward to working with Zain to translate the benefits of this test to real commercial use - that is - improving mobile broadband end user experience."

Nokia Siemens Networks' I-HSPA introduces a flat network architecture that enables cost-efficient scaling of broadband networks with rapidly growing data traffic volumes. As part of HSPA+, the standardized I-HSPA works with all WCDMA/HSPA/HSPA+ devices, and improves end user experience by reducing latency.

Impairments Bring Vodafone Profits Down by 54%

Vodafone Group plans to accelerate its plans to reduce operating costs amid an expected further decline in profits this year. The mobile operator reported net profit for the fiscal year to March 2009 of GBP 3.08 billion, down 54.4 percent from a year earlier due to GBP 5.9 billion in impairment charges to write down the value of its poorly performing activities in Spain, Turkey and Ghana.
 
Operating profit, excluding the one-time charges, rose 16.7 percent to GBP 11.76 billion, helped by the weaker pound. Annual revenues rose 15.6 percent to GBP 41.02 billion, thanks to positive currency effects and acquisitions, but were down 0.4 percent on an organic basis due to regulatory price cuts and the slowing economy. The proportionate customer base grew to 302.61 million, from 288.99 million in December and 260.49 million a year earlier.
 
For this year, Vodafone expects results in Europe to remain under pressure while Africa and Asia will also see a slowdown in growth. The company forecast adjusted operating flat to lower in the fiscal year to March 2010, at GBP 11.0-11.8 billion. Vodafone plans to accelerate its previously announced cost-reduction plan in order to achieve 65 percent of the planned GBP 1 billion in savings in the current year
 
As a result, the company expects the EBITDA margin to fall at a slower rate than the 1.8 point drop seen last year. Vodafone aims to boost free cash flow this year to GBP 6.0-6.5 billion from GBP 5.7 billion last year, while capex is estimated at similar levels to last year's GBP 5.91 billion, after adjusting for exchange rates.
 
In its main market Europe, Vodafone posted annual revenues up 13.6 percent to GBP 29.63 billion, thanks to the weaker pound versus the euro. Organic revenues fell 2.1 percent, due to both lower equipment sales and a 1.7 percent drop in services revenues. In Q4, service revenues fell 3.3 percent.

Spain showed the biggest annual decline, with organic revenues down 4.9 percent, while Germany fell 2.5 percent due to growing use of the SuperFlat tariffs there. Full-year EBITDA rose 7.6 percent to GBP 10.42 billion, but was down 7.0 percent on an organic basis. The UK led the profit decline at a drop of 15.3 percent, hut by higher customer retention costs as the 18-month contracts introduced in 2006 came to an end.
 
In Africa and Central Europe, revenues rose 11.2 percent to GBP 5.50 billion. Organic sales were up 3.9 percent, as a strong performance at Vodacom offset weakness in Turkey and Romania. EBITDA was up 1.3 percent to GBP 1.69 billion, but fell 2.4 percent on an organic basis due to network investments, spending on the turnaround plan in Turkey and intense competition in Romania.
 
Finally, in Asia Pacific and the Middle East, Vodafone increased sales 32.3 percent to GBP 5.82 billion and EBITDA rose 17.8 percent to GBP 1.74 billion, mainly due to the takeover in India as well as subscriber growth. On a pro forma basis, revenues rose 19 percent and EBITDA was up 6 percent. However the EBITDA margin declined to 29.9 percent due to weakness in Australia.
 
 

High Court Gives Vodacom Green light on JSE Listing

South African mobile network provider, Vodacom, will go ahead with its listing on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) this morning, despite weekend efforts by trade unions and regulators to prevent the listing.

The country's largest organized labour movement, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) brought an urgent application in the Pretoria High Court attempting to prevent the listing.

Presiding judge John Murphy dismissed the application with cost, effectively giving the transaction the green light.

The completed listing process will see the country's largest fixes line operator, Telkom, sell 15% of its 50% stake in Vodacom to UK based mobile network giant Vodafone for ZAR22,5 billion.

Telkom will further un-bundle its remaining 35% shareholding to its own shareholders in the form of publicly traded Vodacom stock. Vodafone will be the majority shareholder in the newly listed entity, with 65% of the total shareholding.

The country's communication regulator, the Independent Communication Authority of South Africa (ICASA), also had a sudden change of heart just before the weekend, saying that it had concerns over the legality of Vodacom's operating license if a foreign entity became the majority shareholder of the network provider. The move both surprised and concerned many market commentators, as ICASA had previously approved of the deal, and seemed to do an about-turn because of political pressure.

Following the ruling, COSATU spokesperson Patrick Craven said that the trade union organization was not satisfied with the outcome of the case, and that his organization still believed the deal would be detrimental to South Africa, with such unwanted effects as job losses for local communication workers. He further said that COSATU is considering alternative measures, including a possible nationwide boycott of Vodacom by its members.

Meanwhile, speculation exists that COSATU's real reason for attempts to prevent the listing, is some form of retaliation against allies of the country's former president, Thabo Mbeki, as they allegedly stand to make a lot of money from the transaction.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Telkom Disputes MTN Claims Over Service Quality


South Africa's dominant landline operator, Telkom has rejected the claims made last week by MTN's Managing Director, Tim Lowry, where he blamed Telkom - in part - for the mobile network operators quality of service difficulties.


In a statement, the landline operator said "It is ironic and unacceptable that every time some of the mobile operators are made to account for their network availability and reliability, blame is conveniently apportioned to Telkom. Over the last few weeks (the period for which the mobile operators have reportedly been asked to explain their network quality to ICASA), there were no extraordinary circumstances or network problems on the Telkom network that could have contributed to the problems encountered by MTN or the other mobile operators."


Also, Telkom noted that delays in messaging and dropped calls is not a function of its access or core network but a reflection of the switching and transmission capacity of the mobile operators' network dimensioning practices.


In view of these considerations, Telkom says that MTN should be challenged to prove to the public that the dropped calls and SMS issues can be directly correlated to Telkom over the past month.


Telkom also said that it has not only maintained its SLAs with all the mobile operators but has also provided links to the mobile operators in a prioritised way as dictated by them over the past 24 months.

Court Action Delays ICASA Approval of Vodafone Acquisition

South Africa's telecoms regulator has unexpectedly reversed an earlier decision and will no long wave through Vodafone's acquisition of a majority stake in Vodacom. The regulator cited court action by the Congress of South African Trade Union (COSATU) as the main reason for its decision to delay approval.
 
Vodafone is currently trying to buy a 15% stake in Vodacom, which is currently 50:50 owned by Vodafone and local landline operator, Telkom. The company has offered ZAR 22.5 billion (US$2.47 billion) less the attributable net debt of Vodacom at the date of signing subject to, inter alia, the listing and unbundling of Telkom's remaining stake of 35% in Vodacom to Telkom shareholders.
 
As the proposed takeover is being opposed by the unions, the regulator issued a brief statement that it felt the legal uncertainty made it difficult to offer regulatory authority for the takeover. A series of public hearings has now been called for the middle of next month. The union has been objecting to the takeover as it would result in a foreign firm owning a majority stake in the mobile network operator - although Vodacom itself owns several mobile networks in other countries.
 
The move has also thrown the planned listing of the remaining 35% stake onto the Johannesburg Stock Exchange's (JSE) into doubt, although all parties are still saying that they expect the listing to go ahead as planned.

Econet Challenges Zain Takeover of V-Mobile







The appointment of the final member of an international tribunal to review the sale of V-Mobile Nigeria to Middle East headquartered mobile phone operator Zain, has this week been confirmed by the Chief Justice of the Nigerian Federal High Court.
This comes despite objections by founding shareholder Econet Wireless. Econet claimed its pre-emption rights were breached when the sale was concluded.
In a statement, Econet said that it had been notified of the appointment of the panel and that the tribunal was intending to commence hearings as early as the end of this month.
Econet Wireless was the operator in a consortium of investors that launched Nigeria's first GSM mobile network operation in 2001. The network has grown into country's second largest operator, with about 20 million customers.
Econet claimed that its pre-emption rights in respect of shares had been breached when Econet's predominantly Nigerian partners decided to sell their shares in V-Mobile to Zain in 2006. Consequently, Econet tried to prevent the sale of the shares to Zain through the UK courts, but the judge ruled that the UK was not the appropriate place for such legal proceedings as the matter was more closely connected with Nigeria. Since then, Econet has commenced ongoing legal proceedings in the Nigerian courts.
The tribunal will undertake the arbitration using the rules of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, known as UNCITRAL. Arbitration proceedings normally take approximately 18 months to conclude.
In a yet further arbitration concerning the disputed sale, a London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) tribunal has ruled that Zain was under an obligation, if it involved itself in the Econet transaction, to act in good faith so as to ensure the minimum conflict with Econet possible. This decision was recently introduced into the Nigerian proceedings and will be a key document in Econet's claim in the Nigerian courts going forward.
Meanwhile, Econet has also been pursuing its battle through the Dutch courts, where Zain's African operations had its headquarters at the time of the sale.

Friday, May 15, 2009

ICASA To Meet Telecoms Over Service Quality

South Africa's three mobile network operators were called in for a meeting by the country's telecoms regulator yesterday following an increase in complaints about network quality. The issue came to a head when a reality TV show had to delay the announcement of a winner following delays in receiving SMS based votes from viewers.
Some of the affected areas included Germiston, parts of Sandton, Randburg, East Rand, North West, Mpumalanga and Limpopo.
According to the regulator, ICASA, the network operators largely cited factors outside their control, such as ongoing theft of copper wire from their backhaul networks and vandalism attacks. They also claimed that delays in setting up new base stations due to " environmental impact studies" is slowing capacity increases.
They also blamed interference caused by illegal and sub-standard cell phone handsets, although no details were provided.
With regard to the TV show, the problem could be attributed to the limited capacity of the transmission line connecting the SMS Centre and the service provider database. The Authority has instructed MTN, Cell C and Vodacom to effect a solution to the problems as soon as possible. Failing which, the complaints raised by consumers would be referred to the Complaints and Compliance Committee (CCC) for adjudication and possible penalties.
The regulator is planning to hold further meetings next month and start publishing a quarterly report on network quality performance.ds

Africell Now Part of Convergys Agreement

Convergys says that the Lintel Group has extended its preferred supplier relationship to provide prepaid and value-added services obtained from Convergys’ acquisition of Intervoice to Lintel’s mobile customers in West Africa. The Lintel Group provides GSM telecommunications services under the Africell name to more than 1.3 million subscribers in Sierra Leone and Gambia and has a nine-year relationship with Convergys.
Through its Relationship Technology Management business unit, Convergys is implementing additional licensing capacity and features to the Lintel Group’s prepaid platforms in Sierra Leone and Gambia to support subscriber growth and enhance the customer experience.
“Our partnership with Convergys has been one of continuous expansion over the years. Today, we are working together to solve the welcome issue of significant growth within the mobile markets the Lintel Group serves in Sierra Leone and Gambia,” said Ziad Dalloul, CEO and Chairman of the Lintel Group.
Africell Holding, Africell Gambia, Africell Sierra Leone, Africell RDC (Congo DRC), and Linfra are among Lintel group subsidiaries.

Etisalat To Bid for Meditel as it Eyes Africa & Middle East

Emirates Telecommunications Corp said it would bid for a stake in Morocco's Meditel as it seeks acquisitions in the Middle East and Africa, adding asset prices were likely to fall further.
Emirates Telecom, known as Etisalat, would also continue to pursue the telecom license in Iran it was stripped of last week, its Chairman Mohammed Hassan Omran told Reuters on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum at the Dead Sea in Jordan.
"We are looking for opportunities in the Middle East and Africa, especially at this time there are some good assets," Omran told Reuters Financial Television. "Assets are becoming cheap ... we see them becoming more cheap in coming months."
Portugal Telecom has appointed Morgan Stanley to sell its 32 percent stake in Meditel, Morocco's second-largest telecoms company, people familiar with the matter said earlier this month.
"We are expecting Morocco ... We are participating in the bid for Morocco... Meditel and we are working hard for Syria and Lebanon," Omran said, without giving further details.
The telecom operator is facing stiffer competition in its home market the United Arab Emirates, the second-largest Arab economy, where some analysts expect job cuts and expected population declines could way on future earnings of Etisalat and rival du DU.DU.
"We are working hard to maintain that and even get it better," Omran said when asked if Etisalat was likely to be able to match a 4-percent rise in profit it achieved in the first quarter.
He said the UAE market is becoming more difficult because expatriates are leaving, but Etisalat expected growth in Saudi Arabia, where its affiliate Etihad Etisalat 7020.SE was doing "better than expected."
Etisalat Egypt, the third mobile phone operator in the North African country, was also performing "better than competitors," Omran said. Saudi Arabia is the most-populous Gulf Arab country while Egypt has the largest population in the Arab world.
Etisalat said in January it planned to invest up to $5 billion over five years in its Iranian operation after winning the country's third mobile telephone license.
But Iran said on May 11 it had granted a consortium led by Kuwait's Mobile Telecommunications Co the license instead because a group including Etisalat and Iran's Tamin Telecom "had not fulfilled its obligations.
"In Iran, we made the best bid. Our partner could not continue and that ended up disqualifying the consortium," Omran said. "We are evaluating the possibilities. It is the big market and it has a lot of potential. But it is complex. The game is not over for us in Iran."
-Reuters

Nigerians Get Top Posts in Zain Group


The profile of Nigerians within Zain Group has risen sharply with the appointment of several people of Nigerian descent to key positions across Africa and the Middle East in line with the company’s newly implemented transformation programmme entitled ‘Drive2011’.
The giant mobile operator which has a commercial footprint in 23 countries across the Middle East and Africa now has 22 Nigerians within the top management strata of the organisation in various countries.

According to the CEO of Zain Nigeria, “the appointment of Nigerians to very important positions within Zain Group clearly demonstrates that this company offers every high performing employee irrespective of their nationality the opportunity to move up the corporate ladder and work in any country where their skill and experience are required”.
‘Drive2011’ will propel the company to achieve its target of becoming a top-ten global mobile operator by 2011 through a combination of focusing on customer facing services and commercial activities that will result in managed outsourcing, centralization, leveraging capabilities, as well as training and development for personnel, all of which will improve operating efficiencies.
“At Zain Nigeria, we are glad to be a major contributor to the development of the country’s human capital through world-class training and expatriation which provides excellent opportunity for brilliant Nigerians to acquire international work experience”, said Ligali.
“The progress of Nigerians undoubtedly will contribute to Zain’s progress and underscores Zain brand’s value of Belonging. At Zain we harness and celebrate the inherent diversity within this large family. Indeed, one of the benefits of belonging to a global family like Zain is the opportunity for people from various parts of world to work in a harmoniously positive and culturally diverse work climate”, he said.
The latest on the list of recent high-profile appointments are Mrs. Grace Omo-Lamai, who was named Human Resources Director for the Democratic Republic of Congo, Abosede Olabimtan, Daniel Udochi and Folasade Abieyuwa Akinlade have been appointed to key positions within the Zain group in Bahrain, Gabon and Kenya, respectively.
This development comes after 300 employees were offered ‘exit packages’ as part of Zain’s restructuring program.

Telecom Egypt Reports 72% Growth in Profits

Telecom Egypt reported a 72 percent rise in first-quarter net profit to EGP 962.4 million compared with a net profit of EGP 558.3 million in the first quarter of 2008. Operating revenues rose to EGP 2.53 billion from EGP 2.39 billion a year earlier. The firm's EBITDA and before provisions was EGP 1.35 billion.
The company has an Internet subsidiary TE Data and also has a minority stake in Vodafone Egypt. Total retail revenues for the first quarter of 2009 were EGP 1.468 billion, a modest increase of 2 percent compared with Q1 2008, while the access revenues, comprising connections and subscriptions, grew from EGP 459 million to EGP 536 million, as a result of tariff rebalancing which was only effective in the second half of 2008
Voice revenues declined 4 percent year-on-year to EGP 680 million for the first quarter, reflecting the increased pressure on this segment from the mobile market. However, the largest constituent of Telecom Egypt's voice revenues, derived from local calls, has seen a significant increase year-on-year.
As TE Data further increased its market share, revenues from internet and data continued to grow, up 27 percent year-on-year to reach EGP 146 million for Q1. In the first quarter alone, TE Data added 52,000 new DSL subscribers to reach 477,000 subscribers, an increase of 83% in comparison to the end of March 2008. Total fixed line subscribers were 11.6 million, as at 31 March growing by 2.6 percent year-on-year. Telecom Egypt's investment in Vodafone Egypt was good for a contribution of EGP 350 million.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Senegal's Former PM Offers to Buy Stake in Sonatel to Stave off Foreign Interest


Senegal's former Prime Minister, Mustafa Niasse Alliance has indicated his intention to buy into Sonatel, a move he hopes will prevent the government from selling part of its stake to foreigners. 

The Sonatel workers pursue their meetings with leaders of opinion in the country to convince State not to consider selling its shares to France Telecom. This Friday, may 8, they were sacred Cœur at Headquarters the afp where they exchanged on the issue with the Secretary-General of the party said. 

Mustafa Niasse who expressed solidarity with the Sonatél emloyeess has advocated, on occasion, a national preference when it comes to assign to-DOS also strategic as the Sonatel business. Thus, the former Prime Minister expressed ready to become a shareholder in society, just to preserve national interests. 

The State having already decided to no longer sell 9,87 % of its shares to France Telecom, the Sonatel workers continue to interact with the different layers of society just to call the State, the next time to consult with workers to take an also heavy decision therefore that this sale would of France Telecom company shareholder. 

Zain Launches Borderless Roaming for Data Services


Mobile operator Zain has launched cross-border data services across the Middle East and East Africa on its One Network platform. The GRX-based data access is provided to Zain customers roaming in other markets where the company is active and provides for data use at the local country rate. The One Network already offers local pricing for voice and SMS, with no charges for incoming calls while roaming on another Zain network.

Customers can also top-up using local country vouchers. The new data services include internet, e-mail, MMS, BlackBerry service and Zain portals, such as the recently launched Zain Create platform.

The Middle East countries that benefit from this data service are Bahrain, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Sudan, while in East Africa the countries are Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

By the end of 2009 all other African One Network countries will join and benefit from this data service. Customers do not have to pre-register for the data access service, move to a special tariff, change their handset settings or pay any subscription fees for One Network.