The taxman cometh: trio nationalised over unpaid bills, strategic partner sought

25 Jun 2015

The Ivoirian government has reportedly nationalised three debt-wracked mobile operators over unpaid taxes and licence fees, Reuters reports, and now plans to merge them into a single company before selling a stake to a strategic partner. The companies involved have been named as LAP Green-backed GreenN Cote d’Ivoire, Comium Cote d’Ivoire and the now defunct Cafe Mobile; the trio were previously ordered to pay their debts in May, or risk losing their concessions.

The news agency quotes communications minister Bruno Kone, as saying: ‘We decided to fuse the defaulting companies to make a single entity that we will restructure and seek a financial and technical partner … to take 51% of the new company … We want to move quickly and I can tell you that we already have offers. But we will discuss it and arrive at a deal beneficial to the state and the future operator.’

Sources affiliated to two of the companies told Reuters that India’s Bharti Airtel and Nigeria’s Globacom are among the operators interested in taking a stake in the new venture. Meanwhile, speaking after a cabinet meeting in Abidjan, Kone said that the plan will enable him to reimburse the state for the lost tax revenues while preserving the jobs of the three cellcos’ employees.

Côte d'Ivoire, Aircom (Cafe Mobile), Autorite de Regulation des Telecommunications de CI (ARTCI), Bharti Airtel, Comium Cote d'Ivoire (Koz), Globacom (Glo Nigeria), GreenN Cote d'Ivoire (formerly Oricel)