The government of Zimbabwe has told Telecel Zimbabwe to sort out its long pending shareholding issues first, before they can be eligible for their mobile network license renewal. The announcement was made along with the announcement of the new license fees that have already been put in place. Telecel’s 15 year license, which they got back in 1998, is now due for renewal.
Telecel’s mobile phone licence will not be renewed until it had addressed its shareholding anomaly, the minister of Transport, Communications and Infrastructural Development, Nicholas Goche, told the government owned Herald newspaper yesterday.
Telecel is owned 60% by Egypt based Orascom Telecom, and 40% by the Empowerment Corporation, a local coalition of business people. That shareholding, Goche says, need to go back to the pre year 2,000 configuration when the Empowerment Corporation own 60% and Orascom 40%.
“They must go back to the original position of 60% – 40% with the Empowerment Corporation. Once they meet that position, there will be no problem. The pressure is on them. If they don’t do that, I will not renew their licence. The ball is in their court” said Goche yesterday.
Orascom has been pressured for a while now to comply with Zimbabwe’s Indigenisation law which requires that indigenous Zimbabweans own 51% percent of a locally registered firm. The government’s position is therefore likely not a surprise to Orascom and its Russian parent company, VimpelCom. Vimpelcom itself indicated last year in October that the were keen to sell off Telecel Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe’s has 3 licensed mobile network operators, Telecel, Econet, and government owned NetOne.According to the last subscriber stats released by telecoms regulator, POTRAZ, Econet has about 64% of the mobile subscriber market share with 8 million subscribers. Telecel is the second largest with about 2.6 million,and NetOne is slightly behind with 2 million subscribers.