Cameroon’s Finance Minister, Polycarpe Abah Abah, said yesterday that the country’s plans to privatise and restructure state-run telco CamTel are to be accelerated following approval by the international monetary fund (IMF) of a three-year USD26.8 million loan under the Poverty Reduction and Growth programme. The minister said that the privatisation process for CamTel would be launched by the end of June 2006.
The government first attempted the privatisation of CamTel and its wireless unit CamTel Mobile in 1999. However, whilst the cellco was successfully sold to South African group MTN, the sale of a stake in the fixed line operator proved much more problematic. A joint venture between South African operator Telcel and Egypt’s Orascom was the highest bidder during the initial process with an offer of USD144 million, but this was later retracted over worries about CamTel’s outstanding debt and the transaction fell through. Another attempt failed in June 2002 when state-owned Tunisian operators Tunisie Telecom and Sotetel pulled out of an agreement to take a 51% stake. Worried that potential investors have not found CamTel a sufficiently attractive investment on its own, the government is now offering a third national mobile licence to the successful bidder, although even this has yet to attract a buyer.