The Solomon Star reports that the Solomon Islands National Provident Fund (SINPF) has confirmed holding talks with Fijian telecommunications holding company Amalgamated Telecoms Holding (ATH) concerning a plan to sell some of its shares in Solomon Telekom (Our Telekom) to them. In a response to the paper SINPF manager Mike Wate reportedly admitted that talks between the two sides have indeed taken place, saying: ‘Yes we are talking with ATH Fiji on a Non-Disclosure Agreement with them on a potential partial sale down of SINPF shares in Solomon Telekom.’ As it stands, SINPF holds a 97.32% stake in Our Telekom, with the remaining shares held by the Investment Corporation of Solomon Islands (ICSI), the government’s investment arm.
ATH is 52.2%-owned by the Fiji National Provident Fund (FNPF), with 34.6% held by the government of Fiji and the remainder by other Fijian companies. According to the holding company’s 2018 Financial Report, it confirmed that it met with SINPF last year and that it is interested in investing in telecommunications in the Islands. For its part, the Islands’ national fund is thought to be keen on a reciprocal arrangement that would see it investing in Fiji, possibly via the acquisition of ATH shares.
Solomon Telekom (Our Telekom) has been restructuring its business operations in recent months – unnamed sources told the paper that it ‘has been frantically tidying up its book value and making it attractive for a sale’ – and ATH’s potential investment builds on its recent M&A activity which has seen it expanding its South Pacific presence. In August 2016 ATH, which already controlled Telecom Fiji Limited (TFL) and Vodafone Fiji, announced that Madrid-based Grupo Amper had accepted its FJD163 million (USD79.2 million) binding offer for the sale of all of its interests in the South Pacific – comprising units in Samoa, American Samoa and the Cook Islands (and a small-scale MVNO in New Zealand). ATH went on to execute a ‘deed of sale’ on 23 September 2016, with the individual elements of the deal concluding thereafter – the final regulatory permission required came from the Committee for Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) in December 2018, which was obliged to review the American Samoa component of the deal, namely the transfer of BlueSky American Samoa.