21 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Kasukuwere Homes in On Telecel

INDIGENISATION minister Savior Kasukuwere is mounting pressure on foreign-owned mobile phone operator, Telecel Zimbabwe Limited (Telecel), to submit an acceptable plan to comply with empowerment regulations, businessdigest has learnt.

Highly-placed sources close to the unfolding events said Kasukuwere is pushing for Telecel to quickly resolve its shareholder disputes and draw a plan that will see indigenous Zimbabweans owning a 60% stake in the firm.

The company is required to dispose of at least 51% shareholding to Zimbabwean locals in terms of the country's indegenisation policy.

The minister is said to have instructed the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board, responsible for ensuring indigenisation compliance, to write to Telecel shareholders with an instruction for immediate responses.

Telecel is 60% owned by Egypt-based Orascom Telecom Holdings (OTH) through its subsidiary Telecel Globe.

The remainder is locally-owned, with 30% owned by the Empowerment Corporation, a consortium of local black business people.

OTH has 65% indirect equity ownership in Wind Mobile, which in April 2011 merged with Russian telecoms group Vimpelcom Ltd (Vimpelcom), creating the world's sixth largest mobile telecommunications provider by number of subscribers with operations in 21 countries and serving 186 million customers.

In late October this year, international media reports indicated Vimpelcom wanted to sell its stake in Telecel Zimbabwe as well as in a number of businesses in Asia and Africa to focus on its core markets such as Russia and Italy.

According to the reports, the New York-listed phone company is holding talks with potential buyers for its assets in Burundi and the Central African Republic and is also looking to sell Telecel Zimbabwe after resolving ownership issues.

As a result of shareholder squabbles, the company has not invested adequately into the capital intensive business, giving its competitors a head start.

Together, the three businesses could be valued at more than US$60 million.

Telecel Zimbabwe is the country's second largest mobile-phone operator with more than two million subscribers behind Econet Wireless, which has seven million subscribers, but ahead of state-owned NetOne.

Kasukuwere's move on Telecel comes after his department has almost completed indigenising mining and manufacturing firms.

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