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Vimpelcom divesting Telecel stake to Zimbabwean government

The government of Zimbabwe may be on course to purchase Vimpelcom’s stake in Zimbabwean operator Telecel.

According to the country’s ICT minister Supa Mandiwanzira, Vimpelcom has offered the 60% stake to the government, although it reportedly does not have “the immediate capacity to do the transaction itself”.

As a result of this, the government will be required to use a state-owned business – in this case the ISP ZARNet – to “pursue [the deal] to transaction in a commercial way”.

While Vimpelcom has indeed offered the stake to the government, this may be as a direct result of government intervention. The Russian group had already found a foreign investor interested in the stake; however the deal was vetoed in order to allow ZARNet to acquire the holding.

Telecel is the country’s smallest operator. It has now resumed services following a temporary interruption after its licence was nullified in April by regulator Potraz. Reportedly the operator had violated certain terms of regulation; Telecel challenged the ban in court.

Vimpelcom has been planning to divest its holding in Zimbabwe since 2012 as part of a broader strategy to shift a number of its operations in emerging markets.

Mandiwanzira noted that the government could have taken over the entire operator after local shareholders offered their 40% stake, saying: “Vimpelcom offered to the government of Zimbabwe their 60 per cent. At the same time the empowerment corporation also wrote to the government offering to sell their 40 per cent to the government.”

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