By Patrick Kagenda
After spending over one month making headlines in the African media, the impending sale of Zain Africa operations to Vivendi the French entertainment group appears to have been concluded.
Business daily Africa of Kenya Saturday 4 July said Zain has been sold.
“Europe’s largest entertainment group Vivendi, has reportedly won the race for Zain Africa with a reported bid of $12 billion (about U Shs 25 trillion)” wrote the Business daily Africa.
But Zain (U) head of Corporate Affairs Fred Massade told The Independent “I can’t make any comment but there is no credence in the story. There is nothing like a take over of Zain. This has been on going and I can’t really say any thing about it,” said Massade.
Earlier Bashaar Arafey the Zain East Africa region Chief operating officer during the launch of the Zain zap (mobile money transfer) had on June 29 similarly denied.
“The Zain management is not aware of the impending sale of the Zain Africa operations. If the Zain offshore holders are in discussions that is not for the management to discuss; we can’t comment on that,”said Bashaar.
But the story persists and it would not be the first time that Zain, which was formerly Celtel is changing ownership.
IT Africa news on June 18 reported that following media media reports that Zain was trying to sell its Africa operations, Econet lawyers Fresh fields of London had written to Zain’s lawyers telling them that they could not offer for sale, shares whose ownership was in dispute and was the subject of litigation in a number of international jurisdictions, in particular the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law arbitration.
In the mean time as the sale of Zain picked more momentum, two Indian telecom firms, Bharti Airtel and Reliance Communication, were reported to be in the fray to acquire the African business of the Zain.
Zain Africa’s operations cover sixteen countries in Eastern, Central and West Africa. Its Africa operations comprise Nigeria, Ghana, Zambia, Sierra-Leone, Malawi, Chad, Burkina Faso, Tanzania, Madagascar, Kenya, Uganda, Niger, and Gabon, among others. It also operates in seven Middle East countries.
Nigeria is its biggest Zain operation on the African continent, with about 15 million subscribers while Uganda has about 1.2million subscribers. Zain`s total subscribers in Africa total to 40 million.
Experts say if Zain sells, there is a likelihood of a total overhaul including a change of name and a re-branding exercise again. If this happens, the company will become an international reference point in corporate re-branding. Zain started as Celtel in Uganda in 1998 and was last August re -branded as Zain.