Comium Cote d’Ivoire, the Ivorian mobile operator owned by Lebanon-based Comium Group, has been given until 15 May to pay off its debts of XOF15.0 billion (USD24.8 million), or risk being placed into receivership. An unconfirmed report by Agence Ecofin claims that the bulk of the liabilities relate to overdue licence fees, and notes that company employees are planning to enter into talks with Nigerian integrated telecoms firm Globacom with a view to safeguarding the company’s future. Meanwhile, a previous Agence Ecofin report suggested that Comium’s debt was as high as XOF33.0 billion, suggesting its prospects of survival could be even bleaker.
TeleGeography notes that telecoms watchdog L’Autorite de Regulation des Telecommunications/TIC de Cote d’Ivoire (ARTCI) has taken an increasingly hard line approach with the country’s smaller operators in recent months, putting pressure on Comium, GreenN Cote d’Ivoire and the now defunct Aircom (Cafe Mobile), to merge in order to form a stronger player. Globacom, Luxembourg-based Millicom International Cellular (MIC), Vietnam’s military-backed Viettel Group and Vodacom of South Africa have all been linked with a takeover of Comium in recent years, although the regulator’s aggressive standpoint has made the chance of takeover deal decidedly unlikely.