Pan-African mobile group Celtel International has announced plans to list 25% of its shares on the London stock exchange early next year. Goldman Sachs Group and Celtel minority shareholder Citigroup have been appointed as advisors, though exact details of the flotation have yet to be released. Celtel is understood to have chosen to float in London because it believes it can get a better valuation by being a UK listed company, with analysts’ estimating a market price of USD2 billion.
Based in the Netherlands, Celtel has a portfolio of businesses concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa. The group was previously called MSI Cellular Holdings but was rebranded in January 2004 in an attempt to better reflect its businesses. Sudanese entrepreneur Mohamed Ibrahim, a former technical director at BT Cellnet (now mmO2), is the cellco’s single largest shareholder, holding around 25% of the company. Other investors include Old Mutual Asset Management, CDC Capital Partners, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Capital International.
In July 2004 Celtel expanded its wireless presence into its thirteenth African nation with the purchase of a majority stake in Kenyan operator Kencell, beating South Africa’s MTN Group in a bidding war. By beating MTN to the Kencell stake, Celtel served notice of its intent to become the leading pan-African operator. The deal added a further 1.2 million users to its African total, taking its customer base past the four million mark. Whilst it remains some way behind MTN and South Africa’s Vodacom in terms of subscribers and revenues, Celtel is growing at a faster pace than its rivals, having spent more than USD500 million in developing its networks. Whilst MTN had around nine million users at the end of 2003 and Vodacom finished the year with more than ten million, much of the pair’s customer base is derived from their domestic market. Discounting South African users, MTN’s total was around the 2.9 million mark, whilst Vodacom’s is just 1.3 million, making Celtel the largest wireless operator in sub-Saharan Africa excluding South Africa.
Alongside its latest Kenyan addition, Celtel operates under its own branding in Burkina Faso, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Gabon, Malawi, Niger, the Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. It is also a shareholder in Sudanese mobile operator Mobitel and was a founder and minority partner in Vodafone Egypt (formerly Misrfone Egypt). It also has stakes in fixed line businesses in Tanzania and Sudan, and wholly owns the satellite operator Link Africa, which it acquired from Intercel in February 2002. Link Africa has an extensive VSAT network covering the DRC, Guinea and Madagascar, and serves Celtel networks as well as other public and private operators, including competing mobile operators.