Zimbabwe’s ICT minister Supa Mandiwanzira has hinted that the struggling mobile operator Telecel could well continue in business, despite the cancellation of its licence last week. Following a meeting on Tuesday with representatives of Telecel’s 60% shareholder Vimpelcom, Mandiwanzira tweeted: ‘It would appear the future of TZ [Telecel Zimbabwe] is orange, it’s bright.’ The comment led some to speculate that Orange Group of France could be lined up as an investor, as Vimpelcom continues to search for a buyer for its shares. Netherlands-based, Russian-owned Vimpelcom has offered to transfer an 11% interest in Telecel to the Zimbabwean operator’s employees in order to comply with local empowerment legislation which restricts foreign firms to a 49% stakeholding. Other firms already linked as potential buyers include MTN of South Africa and Unitel of Angola.
It has also emerged that Telecel is taking legal action to postpone the cancellation of its licence to give it time to file a formal appeal with the ICT ministry. The Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) annulled Telecel’s operating concession on 28 April, giving it 30 days to wind down its services, though the cellco was told it could appeal the decision via the ministry. Telecel is hoping to be able to carry on providing services for its 2.2 million customers while it attempts to resolve the matter, New Zimbabwe writes
Meanwhile, the company is still insisting that it has not contravened an agreement with POTRAZ which allowed it to spread its USD137.5 million licence fee payments over a seven-year period. It says that the latest instalment is due shortly, but the matter has been complicated by issues over its ownership. 40% owner the Empowerment Corporation, which is a consortium of local investors, has been mired in disagreements over the future of its own stake.