Econet Wireless International (EWI) is refusing to drop its claim on Nigerian cellco Vee Networks, frustrating attempts by a number of major international players to take over the operator. EWI says that it has turned down offers from Virgin, Vodacom, Investcom and MTC for the purchase of its 5% stake in Vee Networks, because it wants to take control of the business itself. Vee Networks is 60% owned by private investors and 40% by state-controlled investment companies. Its biggest shareholders are First Bank of Nigeria (20.1%), AKIIPOC (18.1%), Broad Communications (13.1%), Delta State Ministry of Finance (10.7%), Ibile Holdings (10.7%) and O&O Networks (10%). The bulk of the private investors are looking to sell their stakes for a major profit, but are becoming increasingly frustrated by EWI’s attempts to block the sale. EWI previously had a management contract to run the cellco and in early 2003 attempted to increase its stake. However, its bid was rejected by the EWN board in favour of a USD150 million offer made by Vodacom. Following the collapse of that deal, EWI claims to have pre-emptive rights to raise its stake to 51% at a price based on Vodacom’s initial bid. EWI and its fellow Vee Networks shareholders have been engaged in a protracted legal battle ever since.