French telecommunications giant Orange Group today announced that it has entered into a binding agreement to acquire 100% of mobile operator Cellcom Liberia, signalling Orange’s first venture into the Liberian retail telecoms market. The transaction is being carried out via Orange Cote d’Ivoire, which has agreed to acquire Cellcom Telecommunications Ltd’s Liberian subsidiary, pending approval by the relevant authorities. In a press release on its website, Orange stated: ‘Orange will provide its marketing expertise and world-class technical capability to further strengthen the network operator, enhance services to consumers and contribute to the economic growth of Liberia. Cellcom’s founders and employees will remain involved in the business to ensure a smooth integration, support performance and continue long-standing relations with the Government of Liberia. This acquisition is part of the international development strategy of Orange, which aims to accelerate its growth by entering new emerging markets with high potential. This will enable Orange to strengthen its positions in Africa, which is a strategic priority for the Group.’
Cellcom Liberia is currently backed by YCF Group, a private international investment firm based in Washington DC, whilst in November 2009 it was announced that Cellcom was launching an initial public offering (IPO) for Liberian investors.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Cellcom Liberia lies in second place in the local mobile market with nearly 44% of the total 2.8 million Liberian cellular subscribers at the end of September 2015, at which date the country’s mobile penetration stood at below 66% – trailing an African average penetration near to 80%. South African-backed Lonestar Cell-MTN leads the sector with a market share of above 46% as of September, whilst a third competitor, Lebanese-owned Novafone, serves less than 10% of users. Orange Group’s previous activities in Liberia included leading the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine cable project, which secured Liberia’s first international high speed undersea fibre link.