Egypt’s cellphone operator, Orascom Telecom, on Wednesday disclosed that Telecel Zimbabwe, its majority-owned subsidiary, has had its mobile business licence extended by 20 years, Reuters reported
However, Orascom failed to disclose if it had consented to Zimbabwean government’s request that it reduce its shareholding in the operation to at least 40 percent.
The previous licence, which ended in June this year, covered a 15-year period.
Telecel Zimbabwe parted with $137.5 million for the renewal of the contract to operate in the country for another 20 years.
Zimbabwe recently held presidential elections which were won by the incumbent president Robert Mugabe.
However, the opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, has cried foul at the result of the elections, saying the elections were rigged.
Orascom said the amount paid by Telecel Zimbabwe, which has 2.6 million clients in the country, was similar to the one paid by Zimbabwe’s other two cellphone operators that had also applied for the extension of the licence.
Reuters reported that in May this year, Zimbabwe had bullied all the applicants to extend the licenses only if Orascom reduced its 60 percent stake in Telecel Zimbabwe by giving the left over shares to local shareholders.
“The government was demanding that a majority of the company, Zimbabwe’s second-largest mobile operator, be owned by black Zimbabweans,” Reuters quoted the state-owned Zimbabwe Herald, as having reported.
Orascom Telecom is owned by Russian telecoms firm, Vimpelcom. The Russian firm now has a 51.9 percent ownership of Orascom.