Multi-national mobile telecommunications network operator Airtel management decision to sell shares in the company has attracted mixed reactions as well as intense scrutiny with some Malawians already expressing reservations.
Aitel is offering a total of 2.2 billion shares at a price of K12.69 per share on the Malawi Stock Exchange (MSE), allowing the public for the first time to own part of the telecommunications firm.
he company's offer represents Malawi's largest Initial Public Offer (IPO) in the history of MSE listing.
But writing on his Facebook wall, South Africa-based Malawian socio-political commentator Kelvin Sulugwe says Airtel has not listed on the Malawi Stock Exchange in an honest way.
He says Airtel is largely owned by the Bhart family of India who manage it through an establishment called Airtel Africa registered in The Netherlands.
Sulugwe says Airtel Malawi is composed of three companies which are Airtel Mobile (the Airtel we all see everyday as the face of the business), Airtel Mobile Money and Airtel Towers.
"All the three companies above belong to one family from India. Out of those three, it is Malawi Towers and Airtel Mobile Money which actually make money by providing services to Airtel Mobile," says Sulugwe.
However, Sulugwe says the two companies which make the money are not part of the listing but the broke company, Airtel Mobile which is bankrupt and with no hope of recovering from its negative balance.
"What the Bhart family is doing to Malawi is simply selling them that Sobo Orange Squash bottle but with no contents in it, hoping they will fill it with water.
"An empty shell that will make them take the whole whopping US$37 million out of Malawi, leaving you and me with nothing, but investment forms in our hands," says Silugwe.
Silugwe describes it as a dangerous scam approved and made legal by the Reserve Bank of Malawi and the Malawi Stock Exchange.
According to Airtel Malawi managing director Charles Kamoto it is the decision to sell shares by some of the company's majority shareholders whom he said have disposed of their equity.
He said the offer will remain open until January 31 2020 before announcing the results of the offer to the public on February 14 2020 and thereafter officially listing on the local shares market on February 24.
This listing will also enable the company to comply with Section 35 of the Communications Act of 2016, Regulation 26 (2) of the Communications (Telecommunications and Broadcasting Licensing) Regulations of 2016 and Clause 42.2 of the subsidiary's operating licence, which requires the company to have at least 20 percent local Malawian shareholding.
Airtel Malawi has since engaged Standard Bank plc to act as book runner and as lead transaction adviser for the company.