The government of Niger has confirmed it has agreed to sell a majority stake in state-owned telco Sonitel and its mobile arm SahelCom to Libyan government investment vehicle LAP Green Network, Reuters reports. Under the terms of the deal, which was first agreed by the government in January, the Libyan company will pay XAF31 billion (USD65.4 million) for a 51% share in a ten-year licence for the two operators, which will subsequently be merged into one company. However, a spokesman for the main telecommunications union has rejected the deal, calling for an international tender for the contract. The union says that Green’s investment would be no better than Sonitel’s previous owner, Dataport, which held a 51% stake in the operator and was a joint venture between China’s ZTE and the Libyan Arab African Investment Company. The deal was scrapped by Niger’s government in February 2009, due to poor management and failure to meet the terms of the privatisation.
Niger has become something of a telecoms hotspot in recent years, with Bharti Airtel, France Telecom and Atlantique Telecom all operating there. LAP also owns operators in Rwanda, Uganda, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Chad and Togo, although some of its operations have has been hit by United Nations sanctions in recent months following the political unrest in the North African country.