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Airtel’s unit in Tanzania could be repossessed by the government

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Bharti Airtel’s unit in Tanzania could be repossessed by the government after President John Magafuli said the telecom was irregularly transferred to private ownership. Airtel is the latest on the list of firms reeling from Magufuli’s assault.

The president has vowed to correct costly past mistakes made by previous regimes. The president said Airtel had changed hands several times, hiding the fact that it was privatized in a sham process two decades ago.

Telecommunications Company Limited (TTCL) in 2005 and has over the years been sold to different international firms. Magufuli said the privatization was not above board and that TTCL lost its shares in the company, which he claimed were sold for a dollar. The Tanzanian Government, through TTCL, retains a 40 percent stake in the operator.

Airtel Tanzania is the country’s third-largest mobile firm, with 10.6 million voice subscribers by September. Airtel Tanzania was hived off from Tanzania Telecommunications Company Limited (TTCL) in 2005 and has over the years been sold to different international firms. Magufuli said the privatization was not above board and that TTCL lost its shares in the company, which he claimed were sold for a dollar.

The Tanzanian Government, through TTCL, retains a 40 per cent stake in the operator. Airtel Tanzania is the country’s third-largest mobile firm, with 10.6 million voice subscribers by September.

“Follow up on the ownership of Airtel. According to the information we have, it (Airtel) is owned by TTCL,” President Magufuli told the country’s Ministry of Finance earlier this week. “Terrible were games played… and the company ended up being sold for a dollar.

Make sure that those games come to an end.” TTCL was privatized in 2001 when it was acquired by a consortium of DETECON of Germany and Mobile Systems International Cellular Investments Holdings BV (MSI) of Netherlands.

The consortium bought a 35 per cent stake, while the government retained a 65 per cent shareholding in TTCL. The consortium later sold its share to Celtel International, which in turn sold it to Bharti Airtel.

In 2005, Celtel was sold by TTCL to become a separate entity and was 60 per cent owned by Celtel and 40 per cent by the government.

It has since been sold to Kuwait’s Zain and later to India’s Bharti Airtel. The government has retained the 40 per cent shareholding, which now President Magufuli says could be higher were it not for the ‘underhand’ deals.

In 2016, the president issued a directive requiring all telcos to sell at least 25 per cent of their shareholding to the public through listing at the Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange.

The mining industry has also been subjected to Magafuli’s clean-up. He banned the export of mineral concentrates in March this year in a bid to push the companies to process the minerals in the country.

 

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