Thursday, December 23, 2010

Airtel To Increase Its Zambian Stake to 97%

India’s Bharti Airtel is expected to increase its stake in its Zambian listed subsidiary from 79% to 97% following the conclusion of a mandatory offer to buy out minority shareholders, launched in November.

Bharti first acquired a stake in Airtel Zambia when it purchased the assets of Kuwait’s Zain earlier this year. Under local rules, companies are usually delisted if a single shareholder owns more than a 95% stak

Libya to List State Cellcos By April 2011

According to Reuters Africa, state-owned Libyan mobile phone operators Al Madar Telecomm and Libyana will definitely be floated on the North African country's stock exchange by the end of April 2011.

Gamal Al-Lamushe, the chairman of Libya's privatisation and investment board, told the news agency: 'We are working on it with Al Madar and Libyana. Probably about 2% to 5% - that is the maximum that will be floated'.
In October, chairman of the Bourse, Suleiman Shehoumi indicated that the two companies would each list 30% stakes on the local stock exchange in early 2011, but Al-Lamushe has contradicted Shehoumi's assessment, stating: 'I don't think that much will be floated. The capacity of the Libyan stock market is very limited. It will not be a good idea to float such a big amount of capital'.
Shehoumi said that the two cellcos would be among as many as 20 local firms expected to list themselves on the exchange in 2011. The move suggests further progress in the gradual opening up of Libya’s economy; long-standing international trade sanctions were lifted by the US in 2004, after Libya publicly turned its back on weapons of mass destruction.
Reports concerning the privatisation of Libya's telecoms sector have circulated regularly since 2007, adding an element of doubt to predictions that the flotation will go ahead as planned in 2011.

FT Continues With Plans To Purchase Korek

France Telecom (FT) is proceeding with the purchase of a stake in Iraqi cellco Korek Telecom, after it was chosen as a preferred bidder over South Africa’s MTN, according to a report by Middle East business intelligence service MEED.

The GSM operator, based in the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region, won a nationwide licence in 2007 and has proceeded to branch out from its northern homeland to cover central and southern regions of Iraq. Korek is Iraq’s third largest cellco by subscribers.

The MEED report adds that Korek, with a customer base approaching three million in a market with room for growth, is an attractive asset for the French group, which recently expanded in the Middle East and North African (MENA) region by purchasing a 40% stake in Morocco’s Meditel.

FT is looking to increase its territorial presence further via more acquisitions, with the overall aims of doubling its revenues and reaching 300 million subscribers worldwide. The deal, which is yet to be finalised, would also assist Korek’s further expansion plans with the investment of a global player, whilst also representing a cheaper option for FT than bidding for a new licence in Iraq and building a network from scratch.

Meanwhile, FT has recently established research and development labs in Amman and Cairo to create services and products specific to the Middle East market.

Providing a cautionary note, UAE-based Etisalat previously failed to negotiate a stake purchase in Korek, saying that the Iraqi firm demanded ‘too much for too little’ in talks with the Abu Dhabi operator more than two years ago.
Millicom International Cellular (MIC) has announced that its subsidiary in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Oasis (Tigo DRC), has agreed to sell 729 towers to Helios Towers DRC, a direct subsidiary of Helios Towers Africa.

As a result of the transaction, Tigo DRC will receive at least USD45 million of cash up front and will retain a significant minority interest in HTD. Additionally, Tigo DRC and HTD have entered into a long term leasing agreement whereby HTD will provide Tigo DRC with access to wireless communications towers and a build-to-suit agreement to support the company's wireless networks.

HTD will seek similar agreements with other operators in DRC. The transaction is expected to create savings in both capital and operating expenditure for Tigo DRC. The specific number of towers and final purchase price will be determined at closing. First closing of the transaction, subject to customary closing conditions, is expected to take place around Q3 2011.

Mikael Grahne, President and CEO of Millicom, said: ‘This agreement with HTD in DRC is Millicom’s third such deal with Helios in Africa and it brings us to a point where nearly two-thirds of our towers in Africa are committed to be outsourced.
'We view the DRC as a very attractive market for asset sharing considering its size, lower average purchasing power and logistical complexities. We are confident that this and similar previously announced ventures will continue to produce satisfactory results and improved service levels as we have experienced in Ghana since the creation of the first tower joint venture in Africa with Helios in January 2010. These agreements, and any future sale of our remaining towers in Africa, will enable us to improve both our capital and operating efficiency by focusing on our core activities of sales, marketing, branding, distribution, service innovation and customer care.’

TZ Govt Owes TTCL $501,000

The government of Tanzania reportedly owes state-backed national PTO Tanzania Telecommunications Company Limited (TTCL) more than TZS7.2 billion (USD501,000) in unpaid communication services bills, making it hard for the telco to improve its financial position and roll out services to underserved areas.

The telco’s chief executive officer, Mr Said Said, is quoted as saying that his company needs TZS322 billion (USD230 million) to invest in the equipment necessary for the planned expansion, and to compete with rivals in the domestic market. Mr Said told the country’s minister for communication Prof Makame Mbarawa that payment of its bill would allow TTCL ‘to improve and extend our services and coverage in the country.’ The minister has promised to ‘work’ on the matter.

TTCL has been struggling with its finances for several years. Indeed, in October 2009 the nation’s Parliamentary Committee on Infrastructure requested that the government bail out its ailing national fixed line PTO, arguing the company could be close to collapse.

Angola: Movicel Enters Benguela Province

Angolan CDMA-based mobile operator Movicel has launched pilot GSM services in its second area, Benguela Province, following its initial launch of a GSM system in the capital Luanda at the end of November.

Benguela-based customers with compatible devices can now use a GSM SIM card in place of the CDMA equivalent. The company has promised a new range of products and services for GSM users, whilst it is introducing free calls between users of the new network, in which it has so far reportedly invested USD100 million

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Airtel Rebrands Warid In Bangladesh

Indian giant Bharti Airtel has announced the launch of its Airtel brand in Bangladesh to replace the Warid Bangladesh name that its operations in the country currently operate under.

Bharti bought a 70% stake in the Bangladeshi cellco in January 2010 for USD300 million from UAE-based Abu Dhabi Group. Chris Tobit, CEO of Airtel Bangladesh, said the company would strive to improve services, whilst it would also ‘value the country's identity, culture and language ... while retaining the youthfulness and dynamism of the global brand so that our customers here can enjoy the same best-in-class brand experience as across continents.’

He added: ‘We have already begun to bring alive our promise of taking our mobile network deeper and delivering world-class and affordable mobile services ... Airtel customers will get to enjoy price advantage over competitive offers, which are brought on by Airtel's unique business model.’

Airtel Bangladesh customers will now be able to experience new multimedia content with the launch of ‘Airtel live’, a WAP portal offering games, video, pictures and various other value added services. With approximately four million customers, Airtel Bangladesh is the country's fourth largest operator after Telenor-backed GrameenPhone, Orascom-owned Banglalink and Robi (owned by Malaysia’s Axiata).

Algeria Plans to Acquire Djezzy

The Algerian government is poised to make an offer to buy Orascom Telecom's Djezzy mobile phone unit by the middle of next year, Reuters reports, citing an unnamed Telecommunications Ministry source.

The hotly contested unit has been the source of much speculation in recent years, and came to the fore once again following October’s agreement between Russia's Vimpelcom and Egyptian entrepreneur Naguib Sawiris under which Vimpelcom would take a majority stake in most of Orascom Telecom's units, originally slated to include its most valuable asset Djezzy.

Provisional negotiations between Vimpelcom and Algiers over the potential privatisation of Djezzy stalled, and the Algerian government forced Orascom’s hand by hitting the telecoms firm with substantial back taxes.

Last week Algiers demanded a figure of around USD230 million for the tax years ending 2008 and 2009; Orascom has called the reassessment ‘completely unfounded’. In November Algeria's Finance Ministry shortlisted ten firms to provide it with a valuation of Djezzy, with the results anticipated to be available before end-2010. The Algerian telecoms official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters: ‘I think Algeria will make an offer to Djezzy by the end of June 2011’.
Although Vimpelcom has expressed its desire to acquire Djezzy throughout, its plan suffered a major setback yesterday when Norwegian shareholder Telenor confirmed that it is not willing to back the acquisition.
Telenor, which holds a 36% voting stake in Vimpelcom, is generally perceived as taking a more cautious approach towards international expansion than its co-shareholder, Alfa Group, and its reluctance to push through the Djezzy deal has been rumoured for some time.
Telenor spokesman Dag Melgaard commented: ‘In our capacity as a shareholder of Vimpelcom Ltd., we do not believe this transaction makes strategic or financial sense for Vimpelcom's shareholders’.
In a subsequent press statement Vimpelcom confirmed: ‘Six of nine directors, including all three independent directors and the three Altimo-nominated directors, voted in favour of the transaction, with the Telenor-nominated directors voting against the transaction. The supervisory board did not approve an amended shareholder agreement, or vote on other shareholder-related agreements due to Telenor’s publicly stated position that, in its capacity as a shareholder of Vimpelcom, it does not support the transaction’.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Zamtel Undertakes $23 Million Digitalisation Project

Zambia Telecommunications Company (Zamtel), the country’s state-owned fixed line incumbent, has reportedly commenced the first phase of a project costing around USD23 million under which it will decommission its analogue exchanges, according to Telecompaper.

It is understood that Zamtel will replace the old analogue exchanges with digital alternatives, which it claims will allow it to offer its fixed line customers additional features, including broadband, audio and video conferencing and missed call notifications.

The first phase of the programme, which follows a successful pilot at the Woodlands exchange in Lusaka, will run until January 2011, during which time exchanges in Ridgeway, Chinika, Emmasdale and Lusaka will be upgraded. According to Zamtel’s chief communications officer, Amon Jere, the second stage of the project will see the digital upgrades take place nationwide, and will begin in the first quarter of 2011.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Maroc Telecom Ahead of FT in Benin Telecom Bid

Morocco’s Maroc Telecom, controlled by French group Vivendi, is thought to be in a good position to bid for state-owned Benin Telecoms, according to, quoting French newspaper La Lettre Mediterrannee, following previous reports that France Telecom (FT) was in pole position for the privatisation of Benin’s incumbent telco.

The schedule for privatising the PSTN and broadband operator is unclear however, with observers saying that the issue could be clouded by upcoming presidential elections next spring, whilst Benin Telecoms’ workers’ union has warned that it will ‘react strongly’ to inevitable staff restructuring (‘downsizing’) plans resulting from a sale to the private sector.

Maroc Telecom has expanded across several African nations. In neighbouring Mauritania, it acquired 51% of Mauritel in 2001, and it acquired majority control of Burkina Faso’s Onatel in 2006 and Gabon Telecom the following year.

In 2009, Maroc Telecom signed an agreement with the Malian government to become the major stakeholder of Sotelma. The group is also eyeing other markets outside the traditional French speaking African countries which have strong political ties with Morocco.

Etisalat Could Obtain Only 40% of Zain

Reuters reports that Etisalat may have to settle for a stake of 40% in Zain, lower than it initially planned. The UAE telco originally offered to buy 46% of the Kuwaiti company for USD12 billion, which when combined with treasury shares owned by Zain would have given Etisalat a controlling 51% stake. However, sources close to the deal say that opposition among some of Zain’s shareholders means that Etisalat will be able to secure only a 40% stake. Legal action had threatened to delay the transaction or potentially scupper it. Etisalat was on the record as saying that any deal could fail if definitive documents are not signed by 15 January 2011.