Press reports from Zimbabwe suggest that local private equity firm Brainworks Capital Management has offered around USD20 million to acquire the 40% stake in mobile operator Telecel that is currently held by the Empowerment Corporation, a consortium of domestic investors. TechZim cites local newspaper The Herald as saying that Brainworks is interested in entering Telecel alongside Russia’s Vimpelcom, which currently has a 60% holding but is looking to sell its interest. The report says that Brainworks may go on to buy some or all of the Vimpelcom stake itself in order to meet indigenisation laws which restrict foreign investors to a maximum 49% shareholding. Alternatively, Brainworks may simply help Vimpelcom find a buyer for its entire 60% interest.
As reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate last week, Zimbabwe’s telecoms regulator POTRAZ is threatening to withdraw Telecel’s licence unless it moves to restructure its ownership. The operator’s concession was renewed in August 2013 on the condition that it met the empowerment requirements, but the watchdog is said to be becoming increasingly exasperated by the firm’s failure to comply. Telecel has been losing subscribers in recent quarters as larger rivals Econet Wireless and NetOne continue to grow.