Telecel battling regulators to acquire Vodafone Ghana
This week, Vodafone Group has reportedly agreed the sale of its 70% stake in Vodafone Ghana to smaller African player Telecel.
Telecel currently owns and operates a number of mobile operators in African and Europe, as well as providing wholesale, enterprise, and digital security services to other operators and businesses worldwide. The company has already made investments in Ghana as part of the Africa Startup Initiative Program “ASIP”.
While the financial terms of the deal are so far undisclosed, sources suggest that Telecel plans to invest around $500 million in the first three years to bolster the Ghanaian company’s network.
There were initially rumours that the sale would be partly funded by the potential sale of Vodafone Ghana’s tower infrastructure, though this has since been debunked by Telecel.
"The acquisition is fully financed by Telecel Group and its partners. Telecel confirms that the potential sale of Vodafone Ghana Towers is not part of the acquisition funding,” said the company in a statement.
Vodafone itself had acquired its 70% stake in what was then Ghana’s state-run telco, Ghana Telecom, back in 2008, paying the government $900 million. To this day, the government retains the remaining 30% stake.
Following a strategic shift to focus more heavily on the Group’s home markets, largely due to the impact of the pandemic, last year Vodafone had been toying with the idea of selling its Vodafone Ghana stake to its Africa subsidiary, Vodacom. In fact, the Group would later follow through with a similar plan for their 55% stake in Vodafone Egypt, exchanging it for shares in a joint venture with Vodacom in November last year.
But for Vodafone Ghana this plan never materialised, and it now seems a stake sale to a fully independent party could be more appealing.
However, getting regulatory approval for the takeover is proving problematic.
Speaking on the local Asaase Radio channel earlier this week, Ghana’s Communications and Digitalisation minister, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful said that the acquisition had been denied approval earlier in the year, saying that she was “surprised at the news going around.”
“The law requires that they get regulatory approval from the National Communications Authority (NCA), and we’ve had a series of discussions with them. We were concerned that [Telecel] were a very small operator and didn’t have the technical and financial muscle to be able to take on the challenging environment that we have in the telecom sector here in Ghana.”
In a statement, the NCA noted that they had not blocked the deal, as such, but rather concluded that the sale did not meet regulatory requirements in its current form. As such, Telecel and Vodafone say they are in ongoing negotiations with the regulator.
“We have received their responses which have not granted the approvals yet and Telecel is willing to re-engage soon after putting together the necessary clarifications,” said Telecel in a statement. “Telecel and Vodafone have been in touch with Ghana’s Ministry for Communications, Bank of Ghana, and the National Communications Authority, to finalize all the regulatory requirements related to this transaction.”
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