Monaco Telecom is poised to enter Mali as the country’s third mobile network operator, Agence Ecofin reports. Mali’s Council of Ministers met last week to approve the introduction of a long-rumoured new entrant into the sector, and drafted a decree determining the ‘duration and modalities’ of the concession, as well as terms relating to its transfer, suspension and withdrawal. The initial tender, which was believed to have been held in January this year, saw Alpha Telecom Mali, a joint venture between Monaco Telecom and local holding company Planor Afrique, submit a winning bid of XOF55 billion (USD107.6 million), comfortably surpassing India’s Bharti Airtel (XOF19.7 billion) and Vietnamese military-backed venture Viettel Corporation (XOF10.9 billion). Other unsuccessful bidders were named as Congolese Wireless Network and Telecom Evol. Neither South Africa-based MTN Group nor Portugal Telecom opted to lodge a bid, despite both requesting the relevant documentation prior to the tender. The licence fee is due to be paid in two instalments: XOF33 billion in mid-October and the remaining XOF22 billion, in January 2013.
TeleGeography notes that Monaco Telecom’s receipt of the new concession comes amid a period of flux for the operator. Earlier this week the firm’s owner Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC) entered talks with Bahrain Telecommunications Company (Batelco) over a GBP614 million (USD1 billion) deal to offload its ‘Monaco & Islands’ operating unit. Batelco views the projected deal as a way of offsetting falling domestic revenues, and Monaco Telecom alone represents a potentially lucrative revenue stream; alongside its new licence in Mali, the telco is also vying for Cameroon’s third mobile licence. It also holds a 36.75% stake in Afghanistan mobile operator Roshan.