Tanzanian government acquires more shares in Airtel Tanzania

Tanzania's President John Pombe Magufuli (R) and former President Jakaya Kikwete, Photo: Media

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA (ADV) -Tanzania’s government has raised its holding stake in telecommunications company Airtel from 40 to 49 percent, the president’s office said on recently.

 “It’s great that they have agreed to give dividends to the government, which for eight to 10 years we had not received. The percentage of dividends is still under discussion,” the president said.

The was disclosed after talks between President John Magufuli and Bharti Airtel Chairman Sunil Mittal in efforts to resolve a dispute over ownership of the Tanzanian mobile operator.

“We have in principle agreed to move forward with a new arrangement of shareholding of 51:49 — where Airtel will now drop from 60 percent to 51 percent and the people of Tanzania through the ownership of the government of Tanzania will own 49 percent,” said Mittal.

In 2017, Magufuli mentioned that the state-run Tanzania Telecommunications Company Ltd (TTCL) owned the local subsidiary of Bharti Airtel outright but had been cheated out of shares.

However, Bharti Airtel disputed this, saying it received all the required approvals from the state when it bought a 60 percent stake and had complied with all government rules.

Mittal told media that Tanzania wanted to increase its shareholding.

“Such negotiations do take some time. We are glad that we have come to a point where we will be making some final decisions,” said Mittal.

Meanwhile, the value of the share transfer deal was not provided.

Magufuli’s ownership claim over the Tanzanian mobile company had rattled foreign investors, who were already unnerved by his government’s crackdown on mining firms operating in the East African nation.

Other mobile phone operators in Tanzania include Vodacom Tanzania, part of South Africa’s Vodacom, Tigo Tanzania, which is part of Sweden’s Millicom and Halotel, owned by Vietnam-based telecoms operator Viettel.

In 2016, the president ordered telecoms companies to list at least a quarter of their units on Tanzania’s stock exchange to increase domestic ownership.

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