DRC licence next on Viettel shopping list

17 Jul 2014

Vietnam’s military-backed telecoms firm Viettel Group has identified the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as the next country in which it hopes to secure a telecoms licence. In an announcement to shareholders published on its website, Viettel has confirmed that it seeks permission to invest in a number of handful of previously disclosed African markets, alongside the hitherto unidentified DRC. As such, Viettel has created a holding company named ‘Viettel Congo DR’ to manage its investments within the country. At this juncture it remains unclear as to whether Viettel is looking to acquire an existing operator or launch a greenfield operation. TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes that the DRC’s recent history is littered with failed wireless ventures, with as many as 16 companies granted mobile licences during the last decade or so, only for many would-be operators to come unstuck due to myriad legal and financial issues.

In related news, the same shareholder document also clarifies that Viettel has sought permission to invest in Kenya and Tanzania. As previously reported by TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, earlier this week Viettel lodged a KES10.6 billion (USD118.8 million) bid for a 70% stake in Telkom Kenya, only to find itself outbid by Nigeria’s MegaTech Engineering (KES25 billion).

Viettel’s continued investment in Tanzania is more ambiguous; in 3Q12 the company acquired a 65% stake in non-operational licence-holder Epocha & Golden Ocean (EGOTEL), although little more was reported on Viettel’s plans for the unit. Now, Viettel has requested permission to ‘adjust the purchase rate for shares’ in EGOTEL, pointing to increased investment in the start-up.

Hanoi-headquartered Viettel Group has increasingly positioned itself as a pan-African operator after launching in Mozambique in May 2012; the company currently holds additional licences in Cameroon and Burundi, with an additional licence application pending in Burkina Faso.