Delisting of Airtel Zambia faces opposition

4 Jan 2011

Bharti Airtel’s plans to delist its recently acquired Zambian subsidiary from the local bourse look to have been set off course following objections to the proposals, according to the Zambia Post. As previously reported by CommsUpdate last month, India-based Bharti announced it would increase its stake in the Zambian cellco from 79% to 97% following the conclusion of a mandatory offer to buy out minority shareholders, which had been launched in November; Bharti first acquired a stake in Airtel Zambia when it purchased the assets of Kuwait’s Zain earlier in 2010. Having subsequently said that it would delist the company, which trades as Celtel BV on the Lusaka Stock Exchange, it has since been revealed that around 2,000 shareholders, which hold around 3% of Airtel Zambia’s stock, rejected an offer of ZMK710 (USD0.15) per share. Subsequently, Mumba Kapumpa, one of the key architects of Zambia’s local capital market and the first chief executive officer and secretary of the country’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), said that he opposed Bharti’s plan to delist the unit, claiming that: ‘The intention of the government then and indeed now is to develop, deepen and broaden the capital market as an alternative place for investments in Zambia, but this development will certainly work against that.’

Under Zambia’s existing regulations companies are usually delisted if a single shareholder owns more than a 95% stake, although the rules do allow for a company to remain listed even when one single shareholder holds such a high shareholding. Further, listing rules also require that any company with more than 50 shareholders must be quoted on the exchange. ‘The majority shareholders have the duty to recognise the rights of minority shareholders, after all, they are both owners of the company,’ Kapumpa added, while also claiming that delisting could also impact negatively on its growth in the country’s mobile phone sector.

Zambia, Airtel Zambia, Bharti Airtel