Malawi Telecoms courts Econet again

Staff Writer.

THE Malawi Privatisation Commission, which is battling to dispose of Malawi Telecommunications Ltd (MTL), a fixed line parastatal, has approached Econet Wireless International (EWI) to rebid fo

r its tender. The tender had initially been won by EWI, which later pulled out.


MTL asked Econet to reverse its decision after several bidders who had shown interest said the deal was overvalued, it emerged this week.


When MTL was put up for grabs in 2000 it was valued at between US$20 million and US$35 million which prompted some interested investors to claim the company was overvalued.


The Malawian government awarded buying rights of 30% to EWI, which had US connections, and Malawian conglomerate, Press Corporation Ltd.

Econet and Press Corporation pulled out when they could not secure the 80% share they were seeking.


EWI owner Strive Masiyiwa said his company had set its sights elsewhere.

“We pulled out of that bid although we had initially won it,” Masiyiwa said in an interview. “We subsequently set our sights on something new. We have been approached by the authorities there on several occasions but we turned it down. At the moment we have set our sights on the Kenya project basically and that is what we are focusing on.”


In September last year EWI, a South African registered firm, won the tender for Kenya’s third mobile phone licence.


The company was awarded the tender after it submitted the highest bid of US$27 million. In the process Econet beat Mobile Systems International and Cellular Investment Holdings BV of Netherlands that had offered US$11 million.


In Kenya, EWI is partnered by Rapsel and Kenya Federation Cooperative and Corporate Africa.


MTL, a fixed line parastatal, was demerged from the Malawi Postal Service in 2000. Although the Privatisation Commission of Malawi has approached Econet there are a number of new bidders who have shown interest in taking up the stake.


The new bidders include Mauritius Telecom, Detecon Consult, and a subsidiary of Deutsche Telecom, Trojan Communications of South Africa, Telnor, and Telecommunications Consultants India.


Also in the running is Econet’s initial partner Press Corporation.

EWI’s continental expansion drive has not been smooth sailing as one of its subsidiaries, Econet Wireless Nigeria (EWN), is embroiled in a legal battle over the control of shares by Vodacom of South Africa.