Zimbabwe’s government could be set to acquire Vimpelcom’s 60 per cent stake in operator Telecel through its state-owned ISP ZARNet, according to local reports.
The country’s ICT minister, Supa Mandiwanzira, told parliament yesterday that Vimpelcom had offered the government its stake, but conceded “it did not have the immediate capacity to do the transaction itself”.
Instead, Mandiwanzira said the state had chosen one of its entities “to pursue to transaction in a commercial way”.
In a twist to the story, Vimpelcom had reportedly already found a foreign investor to buy the stake, before the move was blocked by the government to allow ZARNet to make the deal.
Telecel, which is Zimbabwe’s smallest operator, saw its licence cancelled in April by regulator Potraz for a breach of regulation, but operations have since been temporarily restored after a court battle.
At the time, Vimpelcom also offered to cede control of the company during negotiations with the regulator by offering 11 per cent of its shares to employees, thus reducing foreign ownership to 49 per cent.
Vimpelcom first revealed it wanted to exit Zimbabwe in 2012 as part of wider plans to sell its emerging market units.
According to Reuters, the government had the opportunity to make a full takeover of the unit, after a group of local shareholders also offered to sell the remaining 40 per cent holding in the company.
“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,” Mandiwanzira said.
The value of the deals remains undisclosed.