Tel*One goes mining, farming

Ndamu Sandu

ZIMBABWE’S sole landline provider, Tel*One, is mulling plans to venture into mining and horticulture to finance its US$68 million deal with Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei Technologi

es.


The ambitious deal envisages a rollout of Tel*One’s five-year development plan that will culminate in the issuing out of 1,4 million lines.


The first phase of the rollout project, valued at US$28,9 million and yet to start, is already behind schedule as it was originally scheduled to be completed by the end of the month.


Tel*One will pay Huawei US$4,3 million, which is a 15% deposit for the expansion equipment.


Tel*One managing director Wellington Makamure said the venture into mining and horticulture would help the company raise foreign currency to finance the deal.


“The mining and horticulture ventures will be financed in local currency and proceeds from these projects will be used to fund the rollout programme,” Makamure said.


He said Tel*One had raised $8 billion and the company would go through the auction floors to raise forex needed for the transaction.


“We have so far raised $8 billion and we have got assurances from the Reserve Bank that forex will be availed to us,” Makamure said.


“We cannot just wait for the RBZ to give us all the money. We have to make our own plans, which has made us think of venturing into mining and horticulture.”


Makamure could not reveal where they had secured the mining concessions or where they would undertake their horticultural production.

He said payment for the project should have been made last year but he remained optimistic that Tel*One will pay Huawei by the end of the month.

He said Huawei would supply the equipment in proportion to the money paid.


The first phase to open up 80 000 lines and install 50 base stations countrywide for use with cordless phones will be implemented in nine months.


Makamure said the second phase would result in 230 000 lines and 102 base stations being set up.


On the speculation that Huawei was gunning for equity in Tel*One, Makamure said the idea of partnerships was a preserve of the majority shareholder — the government of Zimbabwe.


Tel*One’s relationship with Huawei dates back to 2000 when the telecommunication concern changed its Harare switch from analogue to digital.


Established in 1988, Huawei Technologies is one of the fastest-growing telecommunications equipment manufacturers in China.


Its revenue for 2004 was US$5,6 billion, up 113% from 2003. Overseas sales in the same period firmed 120% to US$2,3 billion.


The Chinese telecommunications manufacturer will also work with Net*One on its expansion programme.


The expansion programmes by Net*One and Tel*One are part of measures introduced by the Transport and Communication ministry to improve the operations of parastatals that fall under it.


Transport and Communications minister Christopher Mushohwe has been on record saying heads will roll in parastatals that fail to restructure their operations.


Other parastatals that fall under the ministry include the National Railways of Zimbabwe, Air Zimbabwe, the Central Mechanical Engineering Department, Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe, the Road Motor Services and the Vehicle Inspection Department.


Recently Vice-President Joyce Mujuru met parastatal heads and stressed the need to meet set targets.

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