The government of Niger has cancelled a deal to sell a majority stake in state-owned telco Sonitel and its mobile arm SahelCom to LAP Green Network, stating that the Libyan government investment vehicle had not respected the terms of the transaction, Reuters reports. ‘We are in a situation where we must reach out for another buyer, and this time, a reliable one,’ Niger’s communications minister, Salifou Labo Bouche, said in a statement. Bouche said the two companies would be renationalised while the government sought a new buyer. Under the terms of the deal, which CommsUpdate previously reported was first agreed by the government in January 2011, LAP Green Network agreed to pay XAF31 billion (USD65.4 million) for a 51% share in a ten-year licence for the two operators, which would subsequently be merged into one company. However, last month a spokesman for the main telecommunications union rejected the deal, calling for an international tender for the contract. The union said that LAP Green’s investment would be no better than Sonitel’s previous owner, Dataporta, a joint venture between China’s ZTE and the Libyan Arab African Investment Company which held a 51% stake in the operator. 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 Green meanwhile 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.