The Ethiopian Communications Authority (ECA) denied it had whittled down applicants for new operator licences, after Safaricom chairman Michael Joseph (pictured) told media his company’s application had made it onto a shortlist of five or six.

In a statement, the regulator explained “that to date no proposals have been received for the two new telecom licences, and no prospective bidder has been shortlisted, prequalified nor excluded from participating in the bid process. The RFP process is ongoing”.

The comment came after a number of Kenyan media outlets, including Business Daily, reported comments from Joseph claiming a consortium including Safaricom had made it onto the shortlist.

He added it was now compiling the technical details of its final submission.

Kenya-based Safaricom is bidding for a licence to enter the Ethiopian market alongside affiliates Vodacom Group and Vodafone Group under the name Global Partnership for Ethiopia.

As of its last formal update on the identity of the bidders, the ECA said 12 expressions of interest had been received, including from major global mobile players including Orange, MTN Group, Saudi Telecom Company and Etisalat.

Suitors have a deadline of 5 April to make their final submissions to authorities. The eventual winning bidders will compete against current monopoly Ethio Telecom.

Last week, The World Bank’s country director covering Ethiopia Ousmane Dione raised concerns around some of the polices in the country which could hamper new entrants into its mobile market.