In­dia’s Bharti Air­tel to give Tanzania big­ger stake in JV

Gulf Times Business - - BUSINESS -

In­dia’s Bharti Air­tel has agreed to give part of its stake in Air­tel Tanzania to the govern­ment, rais­ing the East African na­tion’s hold­ing in the mo­bile phone op­er­a­tor to 49% from 40%, the pres­i­dent’s of­fice said yes­ter­day.

The an­nounce­ment fol­lowed talks in Dar es Salaam be­tween Pres­i­dent John Magu­fuli and Bharti Air­tel chair­man Su­nil Mit­tal to re­solve a dis­pute over own­er­ship of the Tan­za­nian mo­bile op­er­a­tor.

“We have in prin­ci­ple agreed to move for­ward with a new ar­range­ment of share­hold­ing of 51:49 – where Air­tel will now drop from 60% to 51% and the peo­ple of Tanzania through the own­er­ship of the govern­ment of Tanzania will own 49%,” Mit­tal said.

The value of the share trans­fer deal was not pro­vided.

Magu­fuli had said in 2017 that staterun Tanzania Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­pany Ltd (TTCL) owned the lo­cal sub­sidiary of Bharti Air­tel out­right but had been cheated out of shares.

Bharti Air­tel had dis­puted this, say­ing it re­ceived all the re­quired ap­provals from the state when it bought a 60% stake and had com­plied with all govern­ment rules.

Mit­tal said yes­ter­day that Tanzania wanted to in­crease its share­hold­ing.

“Such ne­go­ti­a­tions do take some time. We are glad that we have come to a point where we will be mak­ing some fi­nal de­ci­sions,” Mit­tal said.

Magu­fuli said in yes­ter­day’s state­ment that, in ad­di­tion to giv­ing the govern­ment more shares, Bharti Air­tel had agreed to pay div­i­dends to the state.

“It’s great that they have agreed to give div­i­dends to the govern­ment, which for eight to 10 years we had not re­ceived. The per­cent­age of div­i­dends is still un­der dis­cus­sion,” the pres­i­dent said.

Magu­fuli’s own­er­ship claim over the Tan­za­nian mo­bile com­pany had rat­tled for­eign in­vestors, who were al­ready un­nerved by his govern­ment’s crack­down on min­ing firms op­er­at­ing in the East African na­tion. Other mo­bile phone op­er­a­tors in Tanzania in­clude Vo­da­com Tanzania, part of South Africa’s Vo­da­com, Tigo Tanzania, which is part of Swe­den’s Mil­li­com and Halo­tel, owned by Viet­nam-based tele­coms op­er­a­tor Vi­et­tel.

In 2016, the pres­i­dent or­dered tel- ecoms com­pa­nies to list at least a quar­ter of their units on Tanzania’s stock ex­change to in­crease domestic own­er­ship.

Tanzania’s Pres­i­dent John Magu­fuli (right) flanked by Bharti Air­tel’s chair­man Su­nil Mit­tal ad­dress the me­dia at State House in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Bharti Air­tel has agreed to give part of its stake in Air­tel Tanzania to the govern­ment, rais­ing the East African na­tion’s hold­ing in the mo­bile phone op­er­a­tor to 49% from 40%, the pres­i­dent’s of­fice said yes­ter­day.

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