Amsterdam-based, Russian-backed multinational telecoms group VimpelCom has defended its sale of a 60% stake in Zimbabwe mobile operator Telecel, saying the deal is above board. As reported by CommsUpdate earlier this week, Telecel’s 40% shareholder Empowerment Corp (EC) has threatened to sue VimpelCom and the government of Zimbabwe over the deal to sell VimpelCom’s interest in the cellco to state-owned ISP Zarnet. EC claims that the sale is ‘null and void’ as it breaches an existing shareholders’ agreement, which gives EC pre-emptive rights on the 60% interest.
According to a report from Business Daily, however, VimpelCom has now responded by saying: ‘VimpelCom, the ICT ministry and Zarnet are working closely to conclude the sale of VimpelCom’s stake in Telecel with all due expediency … VimpelCom has acted in full transparency at all times with our partners, who have been fully aware of our intention to sell to Zarnet for many months, and any contentions otherwise are without merit.’
While the sale of the Telecel stake was agreed twelve months ago, the government has struggled to come up with the USD40 million owed to VimpelCom, with the government pension fund, the National Social Security Authority (NSSA), now expected to fund the purchase on the state’s behalf.