LAP Green Network, the Libyan telecoms group established by the late Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, has insisted that it is committed to launching mobile services through its Ambitel unit in Sierra Leone, despite accusations that it has breached a payment agreement to Ambitel founder, Michael Kenneth Ondaan. IDG News reports that the conditions of the deal have not been met, and quotes Ondaan as saying that he is still owed a balance of USD2 million by LAP Green as part of the 2007 deal for his 85% stake in the start-up. Ondaan claimed this week that a delegation from LAP Green’s Ugandan subsidiary, Uganda Telecom, arrived in Sierra Leone last month with a view to settling the company’s outstanding financial commitments to him, only to then offer a knock-down fee of USD50,000 in lieu of the balance. Ondaan also told local media outlets that, as per the terms of the original agreement, the company is obliged to operate under the ‘Ambitel-GreenNet Sierra Leone’ name, rather than LAP Green’s preferred ‘GreenN’ moniker, and that he should be granted a place on its board, as well as adopting a consultancy role which includes a monthly salary of USD6,000.
Interestingly, Ondaan also claimed that LAP Green has entered into dialogue with the owners of fellow start-up Smart Mobile (also known as Intergroup Telecom) with regards to merging the two companies. Intergroup, which is thought to be owned by Cyprus-based, Russian-owned Timeturns Holdings, reportedly offered to pay USD3 million for Ambitel. However, Ambitel’s interim CEO John Weir told IDG News: ‘The recent allegations are unfounded and will have no influence on our plans to move the business forward’. He went on to reiterate a prior press statement from LAP Green chairman Wafik Al Shater, who said: ’We are actively engaged in considering options in Sierra Leone, including, but not limited to, potential partnerships with other industry participants’.
Frustrated at Ambitel’s slow progress, telecoms regulator National Telecommunications Commission has ordered the cellco to inaugurate commercial services by the end of this month, a deadline Weir feels the company will struggle to meet. He said: ‘The market launch will be soon but not this month’. Ambitel had planned to launch services by 27 April 2011, having made the first official call over its GSM network in February 2011.
In related news, an updated ‘operational footprint’ map included on the website of LAP Green’s Ivorian subsidiary indicates that the company is poised to launch services ‘imminently’ not just in Sierra Leone, but also in Togo (under the GreenN Togo brand). In addition, the Libyan telecoms holding company has designated Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Tanzania and Equatorial Guinea as markets in which its pursuit of mobile licences is said to be ‘ongoing’.