Senegal abandons telecom sale to France

2nd May 2009, Comments 0 comments

Shares in Sonatel, Senegal's biggest telecom operator, will no longer be sold to France Telecom

DAKAR - Shares in Sonatel, Senegal's biggest telecom operator, will no longer be sold to France Telecom, which was due to take a 52.2 percent controlling stake in the company, a union official said Friday.

"The state abandons the sale of shares to France Telecom," Mamadou Aidara Diop, the coordinator of Senegal's telecoms labour unions, told AFP after talks in Dakar.

"Instead, it will turn to banks for investment and make a public share offer to involve (Senegal's) private sector," said Diop, after a stand-off between the Sengalese government and unions who threatened a strike in protest at what they called "a recolonisation of the telecoms system by France."

Diop said a decision was made during talks between the unions and officials of the Senegalese presidency, including Theirno Ousmane Saye, President Abdoulaye Wade's special advisor on new information technologies and communications.

Wade's son Karim, who has joined the prime minister's cabinet and also attended the talks, stated on RTS state radio that state policy now "is to involve the Senegalese in big development and company schemes."

France Telecom currently holds 42.3 percent of Sonatel's capital and the Senegalese state holds 17.28 percent.

On April 8, the government announced that it had signed an agreement to allow France Telecom to buy 9.78 percent of the Sonatel shares previously held by the state for 200 billion CFA francs (EUR 305 million, USD 400 million).

Senegalese Economy Minister Abdoulaye Diop stressed that the state needed the money raised by the transaction to finance infrastructure projects and to pay the debts it has incurred with the private sector.

Sonatel's trade unions also feared a cut in the number of 2,340 permanent jobs.

The Sonatel group, which adopted the Orange trade mark in 2006, has regional west African subsidiaries in Mali, Guinea-Bissau and Guinea.

Its net profits almost tripled in the period 2003 to 2007, from EUR 56 million to EUR 45 million.

AFP / Expatica

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