Friday, August 29, 2008

Guinea - partnerships in state company

Guinea wants new partner for state telecom

Guinea will seek a new partner for its state telecommunications company Sotelgui after Telekom Malaysia gave up its 60 percent stake in the West African operator, the communications minister said on Wednesday.

Telekom Malaysia paid $45 million for the stake in fixed line and mobile phone operator Societe des Telecommunications de Guinee S.A. (Sotelgui) in 1995 but reached a final agreement with the Guinean government this month to relinquish its share.

"The government's option is to open up Sotelgui's capital, seek a partner with sufficient financial and technical capacity that will allow the company to face an increasingly competitive environment," Minister for Communications and New Information Technology Tibou Kamara told Reuters in an interview.

Kamara said the negotiations with Telekom Malaysia leading to it ceding its stake had been "bitter and long".

The Malaysian company reported earlier this month it had booked an 82 million ringgit foreign exchange loss after relinquishing its entire Sotelgui stake, but said this had no impact on its cash flow.

Sotelgui has a monopoly on fixed phone lines in Guinea, but faces intense competition in the mobile phone sector, which has seen the entry of several private operators, including France Telecom unit Orange and Areeba, part of South Africa's MTN group.

Kamara said the Guinean government would examine Sotelgui's assets and liabilities to determine its true market value and then open a tender to choose a partner.

"The lights have pretty much turned from red to green for this to happen. That means the company is of interest to a lot of operators," the minister said, without revealing which companies had shown interest in taking a stake in Sotelgui.

He said the Guinean state operator needed private capital because it did not by itself have the necessary financial resources to invest in bolstering its position in the growing Guinean telecoms market.

Areeba alone recently reported one million mobile subscribers out of Guinea's population of more than 8 million.

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