THE Paris-based International Court of Arbitration is set to meet at the end of the month in a dispute involving Econet Wireless Nigeria (EWN) now trading as Vee Netw
orks and Vodacom Nigeria.
The dispute arose last year when Econet Wireless, a founding partner and 5% shareholder in EWN, fought a bid by South Africa’s Vodacom to take over EWN, claiming pre-emptive rights to raise its equity stake.
After submission of the case to a tribunal, a panel was appointed by the Court of Arbitration to hear the dispute.
Econet Wireless International (EWI) group chief executive Strive Masiyiwa this week confirmed that a ruling would be made six weeks after the meeting of the International Court of Arbitration on January 31.
“The International Tribunal will be meeting on January 31. In the next six weeks we should be expecting a ruling,” Masiyiwa said.
In June last year the EWN/Vodacom dispute took another twist when the South African mobile giant cancelled its management contract due to staff problems over corporate governance.
Under the management deal, Vodacom wanted its own executives to run EWN. This would have seen the mobile provider eventually making a $250 million bid to buy a 51% stake in the business.
EWI claimed that the Nigerian directors had been involved in corruption, and had no right to sell shares to Vodacom as that would breach their contract with EWI.
In May last year, EWN signed a five-year management contract with Vodacom, under which the South African firm appointed a new management team led by Willem Swart and was expected to lead a rebranding process that had culminated in EWN adopting Vodacom’s brand name.
Although speculation has been rife that EWN would be seeking to increase its stake in Africa’s most populous nation, Masiyiwa said they were still to finalise their plans for this year.
Masiyiwa also refuted claims that his organisation planned to start operations in the Middle East saying “no decision has been made as yet”.
EWI last year scooped a US$50 million tender for the installation of a GSM system in Papua New Guinea (PNG).
This means that EWI is now operating in nine countries — South Africa, Lesotho, Nigeria, Morocco, Botswana, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and France, in addition to PNG.