18 Jul 2008
The Cook Islands Herald reports that Caribbean-based mobile group Digicel is in ongoing negotiations to enter the tiny Pacific state’s cellular market. Digicel is seeking a USD69 Million loan from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to fund expansion plans in the Pacific region over the next twelve to eighteen months. The group already has a GSM network presence in Samoa, Tonga and Papua New Guinea. It has not been officially stated whether the Cook Islands government intends to introduce competition to incumbent operator Telecom Cook Islands (TCI), or if it wants to see Digicel buy a stake in TCI’s GSM operations and take over management of its network. However, The Herald reports that Prime Minister Jim Marurai revealed that negotiations between Digicel and TCI are being handled primarily by TCI on behalf of both its shareholders Telecom New Zealand (60%) and the Cook Islands government (40%), suggesting that a sale of a stake in the incumbent is on the cards. Furthermore, he added that TCI’s previous market valuation of USD32 million has been revised downwards after due diligence [presumably carried out by Digicel] to USD23 million.