By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Namibia Post and Telecom Holdings (NPTH) Group of Companies last week paid dividends amounting to N$648 million – the biggest amount ever paid in the history of parastatals in the country. This is the second time that NPTH has paid dividends to its shareholder this year. The dividends paid to government are proceeds from the sale of 34% of Mobile Telecommunications Company (MTC) shares to Portugal Telecom in a recently sealed deal. Portugal Telecom’s coming into the Namibian telecommunications field follows the NPTH board’s decision to engage a strategic partnership in its business after its initial partners Swedfund and Telia sold their equity shares of 23% and 26% back to NPHT in 2004. The 34% of equity acquired by Portugal Telecom amounted to N$1,02 billion, and N$344 million of this figure was deducted in favour of NPTH to pay back the bank loan initially sourced to buy out the Swedes. Another N$38 million was paid over to the government as dividend in January 2006. “Our group has a consistent track record of dividend payment since 2001, and with each passing financial year, the dividend payout has become more attractive and we anticipate remaining amongst the highest dividend yielding parastatals in Namibia,” Chairman of the NPTH Steve Motinga said. Minister of Works, Transport and Communication Joel Kaapanda on behalf of the government commended the NPTH Group for being loyal to its shareholder, adding that this is one way the Namibian economy could be expanded and the lives of many people improved. “The Government of Namibia congratulates the board, executives and employees of the NPTH Group of Companies for their huge contribution towards the country’s social and economic progress”, said the minister. He views the investment by Portugal Telecom as a significant boost to the image of the country as an attractive investment destination. According to Kaapanda, it is expected that the development of Namibia’s telecommunications sector through the availability of access to cost-effective services will not only increase direct foreign investment but also create employment opportunities and a strong and vibrant information technology sector. The minister urged the two partners (MTC and Portugal Telecom) to find means of bridging the digital divide especially in the areas of ensuring affordable services to the rural communities. Given the government’s intention to transform Namibia into an industrialised country come the year 2030, Kaapanda says there is a great need to find partners among companies within and beyond the borders of the country who can contribute meaningfully to Namibia’s development. He added, “It is significant that we receive foreign investors to Namibia with utmost courtesy so that their association with us is not only profitable but pleasant. In so doing, we would all benefit from the increasing attractiveness of Namibia as a place to do business.” The minister assured the government’s commitment in ensuring a conducive environment for foreign investment. MTC started its operations in 1995 with a post-paid contract service. With the introduction of the prepaid package Tango in 1999, the cash benefit allowed the company to expand its network to road coverage in Namibia. Today, MTC dominates the voice market in the Namibian telecommunications field.
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