BeMobile shareholder changes afoot as state looks to improve cellco’s performance

2 Jan 2013

Shareholder and management restructuring developments at Papua New Guinean mobile network operator BeMobile are reportedly underway, following on from the mid-December 2012 revelation that Vodafone Fiji had been called in to manage BeMobile. At that date the Post-Courier Online cited Papua New Guinean prime minister Peter O’Neill as confirming: ‘Cabinet has approved for us to increase our shareholding in BeMobile. We have increased [the] state’s shareholding to well over 50% meaning that we have a controlling interest in [the cellco].’

With the December reports claiming that ‘other’ shareholders in the cellco were to sell their holdings to Vodafone Fiji and its partner, the Fiji National Provident Fund (FNPF), it is now being reported that a decision on such a transaction is expected this year. To that end, the Post-Courier has claimed that Vodafone Fiji and the FNPF have now decided to take up the government’s offer to acquire equity in BeMobile, with the local press portal claiming that a due diligence exercise is currently underway. Speaking on the development, Daniel Korimbao, media adviser to the Prime Minister, noted: ‘Once this is completed, the Independent Public Business Corporation (IPBC) of Papua New Guinea) will announce the details … We have not been given any indication on the timing of this.’

Capital Way, a private sector consortium consisting of Hong Kong-based private equity fund General Enterprise Management Services (GEMS), telecommunications company Trilogy International Partners, and local investors NASFUND, Nambawan Super and PNG Sustainable Development Program Ltd, had acquired a 50% stake in BeMobile in 2008; the remaining 50% was retained by the government. With regards to the state’s decision to restructure BeMobile’s shareholding and management, Mr Korimbao cited the failure of the private investors to make the operator competitive, stating: ‘They promised a roll-out programme and set certain milestones they said they would achieve … But the company simply failed to take back ground in the market share from Digicel which only entered the Papua New Guinea market in 2007.’

Papua New Guinea, bmobile (PNG), Vodafone Fiji