Vodacom might look to new deal for Congo

VODACOM may resolve its problems with joint-venture partner Congolese Wireless Networks by forming an alliance with one of CWN's shareholders.

VODACOM may resolve its problems with joint-venture partner Congolese Wireless Networks by forming an alliance with one of CWN's shareholders.

Vodacom owns 51percent of Vodacom Congo and CWN has 49percent. A dispute between them on how to fund Vodacom Congo further is headed for international arbitration.

Vodacom corporate affairs chief Bob Collymore said the dispute might be resolved by getting Congo-based Keratsu Holdings to unbundle its 19,6percent stake in CWN into a direct stake in Vodacom Congo.

CWN chairperson Alieu Conteh declined to comment on any possible new role for Keratsu. "Vodacom have one option (to avoid arbitration), to buy us out 100percent," he said. "If the price is right we will sell, oh yes."

Conteh said Vodacom Congo was worth more than $1,5billion, (R11,2 biillion) a valuation Collymore calls "ludicrous" - without offering an alternative figure. Both want an independent valuation.

Conteh said a forensic accounting study would determine that high interest rates and service fees amounting to $35-45million a year charged on loans from Vodacom had contributed to the company losing $230million for the 2009-2010 financial year.

"This company would have been paying dividends long ago if it weren't for all the fees," said Conteh, whose group lodged a legal complaint against Vodacom.

Vodacom says that it has has lent more than $340million to the Congo joint venture, which has 3,6million subscribers.

"If CWN want to exit we would be happy to explore options with them," said Collmore. - Reuters

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