Morocco’s national telecommunications operator, Maroc Telecom (Itissalat Al-Maghreb), has completed on Friday, April 13, the purchase of 54 percent stake in Mauritania’s telecom company, Mauritel.
The deal was sealed at a signing ceremony in the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott, in the presence the Moroccan minister of economy, privatization and tourism, Fathallah Oualalou and Mauritanian ministers of finance, Mahfoud Ould Mohammad Ali, and of interior and telecommunications, Dah Ould Abdeljalil. "The agreements we have signed constitute a watershed in relations between the two countries," stated Oualalou, quoted by Reuters.
Ahead of the planned privatization of the state-owned Mauritel, strategic and technical partnership commits Maroc Telecom to extend the mobile and land phone services further throughout Mauritania, covering all its major towns within the next five years.
Maroc Telecom has pledged to reserve three percent of the 572,990 shares acquired, to its personnel at $84 a share, the Maghreb Arabe Presse reported. The company also undertook to increase Mauritel capital by 26.045 percent.
The international tender, which closed January 31, 2001, had no minimum price, and was managed by the International Finance Corp. The Mauritanians expected that the sale to attract up to four bids, as France Telecom and Portugal Telecom, along with Vivendi International and Maroc Telecom, have all obtained documents for participating in the sale.
The deal with Mauritania was Maroc Telecom's first cross-border investment. It was also the first foreign venture since Vivendi Universal bought a 35 percent stake in the Moroccan national telecoms operator in December.
At a later stage, Mauritel will look to sell shares internationally to finance further growth, according to Mahfoud Ould Brahim, director of Mauritel's mobile phone unit and the former government official in charge of the sale, in a telephone interview to Bloomberg .
With a capital of 6.48 billion Ouguiya ($25.5 million), Mauritel’s 650 employees serve the country’s 2.7 million inhabitants. Mauritel, established in 1960, reached a turnover of 6.4 billion Ouguiya in 2000.
Mauritel's monopoly on the fixed-line telephone market is schedules to end by 2004. Currently, Mauritel faces competition only in the cellular market.
The company launched Mauritania’s second GSM network in November 2000, and it is serving more that 11,000 subscribers in the two major cities of Nouakchott and Nouadhibou. Its competition, Mattel, the Mauritano-Tunisian company of telecommunication, was granted a GSM license in July 2000, having paid the Mauritanian governments $28.1 million. — (Albawaba-MEBG)
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