According to a report in the Ghanaian Chronicle, the process of privatising the country’s second national operator (SNO) Western Telesystems (WESTEL) is reaching a conclusion after the government announced it had pre-selected three telecoms companies to make final presentations in their bid to secure a 66.7% stake in the operator. The second phase of selecting a strategic partner ended last Friday when Celtel, African Soft and a group consisting of Kinz Telecom and Etisalat Communications, were selected to submit presentations on their technical and financial competence to win the stake. Seven companies participated in the process. The final assessment is being handled by the transaction advisors, National Trust Holding Company (NTHC) and Databank, and will be presented to the government through the Ministry of Communications.
WESTEL was awarded the SNO licence in 1997 and granted a five-year duopoly on basic telecoms services alongside incumbent Ghana Telecom, says TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database. The company is licensed to provide fixed and wireless telecommunications services throughout Ghana, including basic phone service, cellular, paging, international long-distance, pay-phones, data communications, private networks and satellite communications, but it did not launch services until late 1998 due to the incumbent Ghana Telecom’s refusal to connect it to the national PSTN. Since then the telco has been blighted by bureaucratic disagreements and a lack of investment. Originally a wholly owned subsidiary of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), WESTEL was floated in an IPO following the opening up of the market. Western Wireless International (WWI) of the US took a majority stake, but in its allotted duopoly period installed fewer than 3,000 of the 50,000 lines stipulated by its concession. In January 2006 WESTEL became a fully owned state enterprise again following the government’s acquisition of the two-thirds equity stake held by ACG Telesystems Ghana.