Maroc Telecom to buy 51 pct of Mali's Sotelma
Maroc Telecom SA (IAM.CS) is buying a 51 percent stake in Mali phone company Sotelma for 275 million euros ($382.8 million) as it expands into new African markets with growth potential, the company said on Wednesday.
Sotelma, Mali's dominant, state-owned telecom service provider, generated revenue of 112 million euros in 2007 and had more than half a million active mobile subscribers at the end of last year, Maroc Telecom said in a statement.
"The company has a powerful brand image in Mali and offers considerable growth potential," Maroc Telecom Chairman Abdeslam Ahizoune said after signing the privatization deal with Mali's government.
Maroc Telecom, which is 53 percent owned by France's Vivendi (VIV.PA) and 30 percent by the Moroccan state, has expanded into Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Gabon since 2006 through acquisitions.
The company has fended off growing competition through heavy network investment and cut-price airtime deals. But analysts expect domestic revenue growth to slow in coming years and Maroc Telecom has looked abroad for new opportunities.
It said Mali's estimated mobile penetration rate was 26 percent, making growth prospects in the West African country especially promising.
Maroc Telecom initially bid for Sotelma in January but Mali delayed finalising the contract until the North African company significantly increased its offer to reflect the market's potential, Mali's government said on Wednesday.
"The deal that has been concluded today is the most important privatisation ever carried out in Mali and is one of the most important ever in West Africa," Mali's Information Minister Diarra Mariam Flantie Diallo said.
Flantie Diallo said it would help develop Internet connectivity, which would have an impact on boosting access to health and education and modernising administration. (Writing by Tom Pfeiffer and David Lewis; Editing by David Holmes)