Niger seeks new buyer for Sonitel

2 Aug 2011

The government of Niger is looking for a new buyer for state-owned telco Sonitel, after a deal to sell a stake in the company to Libya’s LAP Green Network was scrapped earlier this year. Reuters cites Niger’s Communications Minister Salifou Labo Bouche as saying that potential buyers for the telco could be either a new entrant or a company already established in the local telecoms market. The country has become something of a telecoms hotspot in recent years, with Bharti Airtel, France Telecom and Atlantique Telecom all operating there.

CommsUpdate reported in June 2011 that the Nigerien government had cancelled a deal to sell a majority stake in Sonitel and its mobile arm SahelCom to LAP Green Network for XAF31 billion (USD65.4 million), stating that the Libyan government investment vehicle had not respected the terms of the transaction. Meanwhile, some of LAP Green’s operations have been hit by United Nations sanctions in recent months following the political unrest in the North African country. The LAP Green deal was also heavily criticised by the country’s main telecoms union, which said that the firm’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.