The government of Zimbabwe says it has finally completed the acquisition of a 60% stake in the country’s third largest mobile operator, Telecel. The state agreed to buy out Amsterdam-based VimpelCom for USD40 million back in November 2015, but the sale process has dragged on due to the country’s liquidity crisis. The acquisition is being carried out through state-owned ISP Zarnet and is being part-funded by the National Social Security Authority (NSSA). VimpelCom held its shares indirectly via its Global Telecom Holding (GTH) and Telecel International units.
The government has reiterated its desire to take full control of Telecel by buying out 40% owner Empowerment Corporation (EC), which is a consortium of local businesses. A statement from ICT Minister Supa Mandiwanzira read: ‘Government’s intentions remain to secure 100% shareholding in Telecel Zimbabwe, in the process sanitising the numerous shareholder related disputes that have dogged business growth and scared away investors.’ In a twist to the tale last week, Telecel threatened to sue the government and VimpelCom for failing to offer it first right of refusal on VimpelCom’s 60% stake.
Telecel has been losing subscribers over the past few years, with its user total falling from a peak of 2.57 million at the end of 2013 to 1.78 million by end-June 2016. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, it controlled just 13.7% of Zimbabwe’s mobile market at that date.