2 June 2013

Rwanda: Liquid Telecom Acquires Rwandatel Assets

Liquid Telecom, a subsidiary of South Africa-based Econet Wireless Group, has concluded a transaction to purchase assets and businesses of wound-up Rwandatel.

Liquid Telecom said the move is set to accelerate the company's expansion across Africa. Econet Wireless is a diversified telecommunications group with operations and investments in Africa, Europe, South America and the East Asia Pacific, offering services in the core areas of mobile and fixed telephony services, Internet and satellite.

Richard Mugisha, the Rwandatel insolvency administrator, confirmed to The New Times, yesterday, that the Rwandatel assets, including its copper and fibre network were sold to Liquid Telecom with whom a final agreement was concluded on Saturday.

Land asset left out

The deal was just about $4 million, according to Liquid Telecom, and excludes most of the land which remains a property of Rwandatel.

The data, voice and IP provider supports cellular companies across Africa on its advanced fibre optic network. It has offices in Rwanda, UK, Botswana, DR Congo, Kenya, Lesotho, Nigeria, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

It boasts a Pan-African fibre network running from Uganda through Kenya and Rwanda down to Cape Town on a single thread of fibre that stretches more than 13,000 kilometres.

The acquisition of Rwandatel assets comes only four months after Liquid Telecom also bought the East African assets of The Johannesburg-based Altech Group, including a controlling interest in Kenya Data Networks.

"This is a good outcome for the creditors and the telecommunications sector," Mugisha said in an interview yesterday.

"Liquid Telecom is a strong player in the Industry, with a clear vision for the future of Rwandatel and the price received was the highest offered by any of the interested parties," he added.

Evolving on the market

Sam Nkusi, the chairman of Liquid Telecom, assured that his company will introduce new products and services, as well as an additional network that will compliment Rwanda's connection to its neighbours.

"Liquid Telecom is delighted that the sale has been finalised as this will immediately result in significant further investment in the network." Nkusi said in an interview, adding that: "We have additional investment of $20 million (about Rwf19 billion) for the next one year; this is money we have right now and our priorities are exciting."

"Our priority is to quickly rehabilitate the core network and to build out the access network in order to serve Rwanda's enterprises and residences with the most reliable, high speed, and affordable telecommunications. Current customers must be assured of service continuity and future improvements in their network availability and performance," Nkusi said.

The development comes as relief for Rwandatel, whose troubles began when its GSM license was revoked in 2011 by regulator RURA, following its failure to comply with sector obligations.

It was shortly put under liquidation and has since then solicited for investors to buy its assets, whereby, last year, Bharti Airtel paid $15.5 million (about Rwf9.3 billion) to acquire its GSM masts.

Founded in 1993, Rwandatel was jointly owned by LAP Green Networks, a subsidiary of Libyan African Portfolio, and the former National Social Security Fund of Rwanda, with 80 per cent and 20 per cent respectively.

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