A Vodafone Group consortium and MTN Group submitted bids for permits to operate in Ethiopia that were much less than what was sought by the government of Africa’s second most populous nation, people with knowledge of the matter said.
Vodafone’s consortium, which includes Safaricom of Kenya and the UK carrier’s South African unit, Vodacom Group, submitted a bid of US$850-million (R12-billion), according to the people who declined to be identified because the results are not yet public. MTN, which is in a partnership with The Silk Road Fund of China, offered $600-million, according to the people.
The government is now weighing a decision to accept one or both of the bids, or cancel the process and restart, according to the people. An announcement on the matter will be made in days, they said.
“We think we have received strong offers,” Balcha Reba, Ethiopian Communication Authority’s director-general, said in a televised presentation on Thursday. “However, there was a 29.4% difference between the highest and second highest offers,” he said, adding that government will decide to either cancel the process and restart or award one or both licences.
Representatives of Vodacom and MTN declined to comment when contacted on Friday.
Long bidding process
The government has been in a long bidding process for the licences and is set to sell part of government-owned monopoly Ethiopian Telecommunication as part of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s plan to open up Ethiopia’s state-dominated economy to more foreign capital.
Investors coveted Ethiopia, with 110 million people and one of the last remaining large telecoms markets in the world. But their enthusiasm was curbed by the authorities’ temporary exclusion of the provision of the lucrative mobile money or fintech services from the licences. That decision may have made the licences about $500-million less valuable, according to the government. — Reported by Loni Prinsloo and Fasika Tadesse, (c) 2021 Bloomberg LP