Gabon’s government yesterday launched the privatisation of the country’s incumbent fixed line operator Gabon Telecom, offering a 51% stake in the telco to international corporate and institutional investors. Under the privatisation offer, Telecom will be granted a five-year fixed line monopoly as part of a new fifteen-year operating licence. Its 100%-owned wireless division Libertis will keep its current GSM mobile licence, granted in 2000, with ten years left to run.
The open tender is going ahead despite protests from Gabon’s postal workers’ union, which opposes both the telecoms sell-off and a parallel state move to liquidate the loss-making Gabon Poste postal agency. An attempt to sell Gabon Telecom in August 2002 failed, despite attracting interest from several international players, and in July 2003 a second effort to sell off a 35% stake bundled with a management contract attracted at least five bidders. Negotiations were dragged out into the middle of 2004 but the government again failed to clinch a deal with any of the parties. Gabon Telecom had 38,700 fixed lines in service at the end of 2004, in a country of 1.37 million people. It posted 2004 revenues of XAF75.8 billion (USD140 million). Libertis had an estimated 220,000 mobile subscribers at the end of September 2005, or 43% of the market; it had a turnover of XAF27.5 billion (USD51 million) and net profit of XAF740 million in 2004.