Zimbabwe ‘completes’ Telecel acquisition from VimpelCom

12 April 2016 | Alan Burkitt-Gray


The government of Zimbabwe is said to be “on the verge” of paying for VimpelCom’s 60% share of local mobile operator Telecel, nine months after agreeing to take over the stake.

Amsterdam-based VimpelCom agreed to sell the operation, with 2.5 million users, in July 2015 but the Zimbabwe government could not raise the $40 million to complete the purchase.

The government made a second announcement in November 2015 that its ZARnet had taken over the stake, and Telecel’s staff were told that they were now civil servants. ZARnet is wholly owned by the government of Zimbabwe through the ministry of information and communication technology.

Now reports from Harare say that the purchase has been completed. Supa Mandiwanzira, minister for information and communication technology told Zimbabwe’s parliament that the money has come from the National Social Security Authority, a state-run national pension fund.

The deal appears to be a bargain for the government of Zimbabwe, which has picked up the business for $18 per subscriber. VimpelCom is believed to have invested around $230 million in the operation over the past five years.

The remaining 40% is owned by a Zimbabwe consortium. The government wholly owns NetOne, with four million subscribers. The biggest operator in the country is Econet Wireless, founded by Zimbabwe-born businessman Strive Masiyiwa.

Mandiwanzira said about Telecel: “This acquisition is localising an international entity. It is going to be a Zimbabwean entity, where they were paying management fees to Switzerland and Amsterdam. Those monies will no longer be leaving the country. If we look at the makeup of the telecoms industry in this country, there are no foreign players.”