Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has reportedly given the thumbs down to Liberia Telecommunications Corporation (LIBTELCO’s) proposed takeover of ailing Liberian mobile operator Novafone (formerly Comium Liberia). Online portal FrontPageAfrica claims to have reliable information from multiple sources that the president has ‘rejected the deal in its entirety, declaring to aides that it is not in Liberia’s best interest’, effectively killing LIBTELCO’s plan stone dead. Indeed, one source goes as far as to claim that Ms. Johnson-Sirleaf has instructed her acting finance minister James Kollie ‘to immediately terminate all negotiations regarding the Novafone deal’. It is unclear what led the Liberian president to scupper the deal, although the move comes after the Liberian Revenue Authority shut the operator down last Thursday over an alleged non-payment of taxes worth around USD1.3 million – accrued between 2012 and 2014.
As previously reported by TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, last week the managing director of Liberian state owned fixed line incumbent LIBTELCO, Sebastian Muah, confirmed that his company had agreed a deal to acquire 100% of Novafone for around USD10 million. In a statement at the time he said: ‘The acquisition of 100% of the shares in Novafone means LIBTELCO can do what it needs to foster its commercialisation and strategies; and it means Novafone will continue to run, but with a new management team and direction.’ He went on to point out that Novafone was considered to be a ‘competitive asset’ that would allow his company to enter the mobile space with national coverage using a core network that has a viable long term lifespan. Muah said that LIBTELCO would invest upwards of USD5 million to build 100 cell sites on the Novafone network, suggesting that it would take up to two years to complete the full integration of the cellco.