Zain acquires WESTEL stake for USD120m

23 Oct 2007

Kuwaiti telecoms group Zain, formerly known as MTC Group, has reportedly agreed to purchase a 75% stake in Ghana’s second national operator (SNO) Western Telesystems (WESTEL) from the Ghanaian government for USD120 million. Zain will buy the interest through its Netherlands-based Celtel International unit, and will list some of WESTEL’s shares on the Ghanaian stock exchange, the Kuwaiti group said in a statement yesterday. The government of Ghana will retain a 25% interest in the SNO via Ghana National Petroleum Corporation, although it has said it will reduce this to as little as 5% within three years through a flotation.

According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, in March 2007 a group consisting of Kinz Telecom and Etisalat Communications of the UAE claimed it was in the front seat in the race to buy WESTEL. In a press release at the time, Dr Salieh El Hassan, Chairman of Kinz International Group, said: ‘We would like to inform you [that] Kinz Telecom, one of our Kinz International Group, is winning the WESTEL bidding in Ghana… we will get 66.7% of WESTEL.’ Kinz Telecom also said it had been advised by both the government appointed advisers, NTHC and Databank, and the telecoms minister that it was the winner out of the four short-listed bidders. Seven companies had originally participated in the process, including

Celtel, Kinz Telecom, Vodacom, African Soft, National Telecom Cards Afritel and Communications, although in the event Vodacom withdrew before the formal discussions had even started. The Kinz Telecom bid is believed to have been annulled after it failed to pay the invoice despite several extensions of the deadline.

Ghana, AirtelTigo, Zain Group