Togo govt summons Etisalat, Maroc Telecom over Moov deal
By Issa Sikiti da Silva
The Togolese government met recently with Etisalat and Maroc Telecom officials in the capital Lomé to discuss the issue of Moov Togo, which the Moroccan telecom giant is set to acquire soon after taking control of Ivory Coast’s Moov CI last week.
Moov Togo is owned by Atlantique Telecom Togo (ATT), a subsidiary of the United Arab Emirates group Etisalat. The Emirati group’s request to sell Moov Togo to Maroc Telecom was made to the goverment on 12 May 2014.
The deal is on, but the Togolese government wants Etisalat, first, to solve the issue of Moov Togo’s local ownership before it approves the deal and gives it the go-ahead.
Etisalat made a commitment back in 2009 to ensure that 30% of Moov Togo shares are given to Togolese investors. By law, Etisalat was supposed to hold only 70% of ATT, but it reportedly had 95% by 2010.
The Togolese regulator, ART&P, was then forced to fine the Emirati group a whopping 1.332 billion FCFA (about US$2.6 million) in September 2014 for failing to fulfill that promise and therefore violating its licence’s conditions.
Furthermore, Maroc Telecom, Africa’s second-largest and influential telecom company behind MTN, was also told by the government to show a strong commitment and will about investing in the development of the country’s telecom sector.
Now, both Etisalat and Maroc Telecom have been given five months by the government to patch things up before the deal goes through.
Sources said the five months of patching things up include, according to ICT minister Cina Lawson, preparing and finalising all the necessary arrangements to facilitate the operation of allowing 30% of ATT ownership to be transferred to local investors.
However, while government and business are busy negotiating behind the scenes for the Moov takeover, the cry of the working class continues to tear the county apart, with many workers worried sick that Maroc Telecom might seek to retrench people to cut costs and boost profit as part of its restructuring process.
Since launching operations in this tiny West African nation, Moov has always been playing second-fiddle to Togo Cellulaire, a subsidiary of government-controlled Togo Telecom.
“A major restructuring operation may take place, but I don’t think the Moroccans will reach the level of throwing people out. The commitment they made is to invest not to disinvest,” West African technology analyst John Osei-Seidu told Biztechafrica.