Airtel Kenya has won a fresh waiver relating to the shareholding rule that required it to sell a 15% stake to local investors by April 2013, Business Daily Africa reports. The ruling effectively leaves India’s Bharti Airtel firmly in control of the mobile operator. Kenya’s existing telecoms laws require all domestic operators to have at least 20% local ownership, but the cellco has been 15% short of this obligation since local businessman Naushad Merali offloaded three-quarters of his 20% stake to previous owner Zain Group in 2009; the enlarged 95% equity holding duly passed to Bharti Airtel when it acquired Zain’s pan-African portfolio in June 2010.
Finance minister Njeru Githae told Business Daily Africa that the waiver was granted after Airtel reported that it was having difficulties finding Kenyan buyers of the contentious 15% stake, valued at around KES5 billion (USD59.2 million). ‘The exemption of Airtel from the local shareholding rules is now open-ended’, Githae said, adding that the shares will remain available for interested locals to buy.