The Ministry of Communications yesterday announced that Celtel International, a subsidiary of Kuwaiti company Zain (formerly named MTC) has bought 75 per cent of the shares of Western Telesystems (Ghana) Limited (Westel) for 120 million dollars.
A statement issued in Accra by Dr Benjamin Aggrey Ntim, Minister of Communications said government, through the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation, would hold the remaining 25 per cent.
'Following extensive negotiations, a price offer of 120 million dollars has been agreed upon for 75 per cent shareholding reducing to 70 per cent within three years when Celtel will release five per cent of its shares in addition to those to be released by the government to be floated on the Ghana Stock Exchange (GSE) to benefit the Ghanaian public,' the Ministry said.
The statement said the offer price of 120 million dollars included an additional consideration of 15 million dollars outright payment to cover the penalty fee of 25 million dollars due to the National Communications Authority (NCA), which would have been paid over an 11-year period of the licence's lifespan.
The successful conclusion of a settlement agreement between the government and Western Wireless International (WWI) saw the transfer of the 66.67 per cent shares of WWI to the government.
Consequently in March 2006, the government charged the Ministry of Communications to facilitate the divestiture of Westel in an open and transparent manner.
'An inter-ministerial committee was duly constituted with representation from the Ministries of Communications, Finance and Economic Planning, Energy, and Attorney General's Department, the President's Office, in addition to representatives of Ghana National Petroleum Company (GNPC) and Westel to select a Transactions Advisor.
'Messrs NTHC/Databank was accordingly selected as the Transactions Advisor to undertake the privatisation of Westel through a competitive process.'
The statement said by the close of the deadline for the submission of bids for Westel and after consideration of the technical evaluation of the capabilities of the companies, the Transactions Advisor presented six companies in order of ranking Celtel, Kinz Telecom, Vodacom, African Soft Ltd, National Telecom Cards Company and Afritel Communications.
'In accordance with the terms of reference of the request for proposals, the Transactions Advisor recommended the top four bidders for negotiations with Government. However, Vodacom withdrew its candidature before official negotiations could begin,' the statement said.
It said government invited Kinz Telecom of United Arab Emirates on April 11, 2007 following an encouraging outcome of initial discussions, as it had offered the superior initial price, to seek firm commitments on technology, details of roll-out implementation, as well as possibility of price enhancement by the company.
'For consideration of additional spectrum requests by Kinz for Third Generation Network (3G) licence and Wimax frequencies, the company accepted to pay a total of 250 million dollars for 66.67 per cent shares of Westel, after which a Memorandum of Understanding was signed for payment to be executed within 45 days before the conclusion of a Sales and Purchase Agreement (SPA).'
However, after the expiry of the stipulated time and further extensions granted for the payment, Kinz Telecom was not able to fulfil its undertaking and consequently, the exclusivity granted to it was withdrawn, whereupon Government invited Celtel, as the next successful bidder, for negotiations over its bid.
The statement said on July 10, 2007 Celtel International, a subsidiary of Kuwaiti company, Zain, formerly named MTC, entered negotiations with the government 'and for the purposes of this transaction turned down the offer of additional licences for Wimax and Third Generation Network (3G) services at this time'.
'The ensuing negotiations, therefore, resulted in an agreement on the final offer price of $120 million. It is to be noted that this amount is considerably less than the Kinz price quoted above, but principally, this is due to the limited frequencies being offered to Celtel.'
The statement said Celtel would be investing millions of dollars in a state-of-the-art telecommunications network and associated services to offer its unparalleled experience as a pan-African operator, bringing telecommunications services to more than 24 million customers in 14 countries across the continent.
'Celtel prides itself on offering attractive career opportunities in its countries of operation, not only with the company directly, but also via its network of distributors, suppliers and advisors.
'Westel's current management and staff, who have worked under challenging circumstances to date, will play an important role in taking the company forward.' The statement said Celtel also looked forward to promoting Ghana as a gateway to West Africa through its One Network, the world's first borderless network.
'This offers Celtel's customers the opportunity to move freely across geographical borders using the same services they would access in their home country, and to make calls without roaming surcharges and without having to pay to receive incoming calls and messages.
'The service also permits customers to buy and top up with local airtime when they visit other countries in which One Network is operational. Celtel's One Network service is currently operational for 160 million people across six nations in East and Central Africa.'
The Ministry said it was their conviction that the entry of Celtel on the Ghanaian telecom market at this stage would further promote the needed competition in the telecom sector to ensure quality service delivery to the people of Ghana.