Windhoek-Anxiety and uncertainty loom over the 34 percent shareholding in MTC on offer at a time when government is toying with the idea of floating the mobile operator on the stock exchange.
New Era can confirm that the previous shareholders in Africatel, the company that directly owned the 34 percent in MTC, is continuing with an investigation into what led to the disastrous financial collapse of Brazil telecom company, Oi, and its effects on Portugal Telecom.
The previous shareholders have hired one of Europe’s most reputable legal institutions, with a presence in a number of southern African countries.
Among their terms of reference are questions as to why state-owned Namibia Post and Telecommunication Holdings (NPTH) did not block the agreement to swap MTC shares between Oi and Samba Luxco, in Portugal Telecom’s former African subsidiary Africatel.
The lawyers are also digging to find out who are the actual owners of the MTC shares currently issued under a share certificate to Samba Luxco, an entity accused of engaging in practices similar to hiding assets, as it was continuously transferring assets to shell companies in various jurisdictions.
But the story of MTC shares gets murkier: NPTH would not comment on whom it is negotiating with, nor would it entertain any questions about whether or not it exercised its pre-emptive rights.
In fact, NPTH board chairperson Ally Angula disparaged the concerns being expressed in public as “laughable lies,” ostensibly promoted by those who stand to gain if the deal does not go through.
This is despite the fact that at one point even the ICT Ministry expressed disappointment with the manner in which NPTH directors sat by while the MTC shares were being swapped around.
Recently, ICT Minister Tjekero Tweya told New Era that contrary to reports of the finalisation of the exchange of shares between MTC and Samba Luxco – through the asset swap arrangement – there was no swapping of shares. “There was fortunately no share swap undertaken… I and critical stakeholders are confident that our timely actions taken have saved this much desired national asset. NPTH, as the shareholder, maintained all its rights and ensured compliance as necessary and took steps as necessary to ensure that the asset was secured,” Tweya said.
The minister said he could not say much at this stage, as all information would be shared with the public once the transaction is concluded.
“As far as commercial transactions go, valuations are undertaken to ensure that the underlying value is the basis for any decision,” he said.
Aside from saying NPTH would not comment on the ongoing commercial transaction, Angula said the questions put to her were based on lies.
“Unfortunately, based on these questions, we can’t respond. Go and do more investigations,” she quipped.
Helios private equity fund also declined to comment. Helios held a minority shareholding in Africatel prior to Samba Luxco getting its hands on MTC shares. “Helios have declined to comment on the questions,” is all their London-based spokesperson Jessica Gill said in response to questions sent.
The lawyers’ interest in Namibia emanates from the fact that MTC has always been the cash cow of the Africatel portfolio, which had included mobile communication assets in São Tomé and Cape Verde.
As of 2013, MTC was contributing 172 million euro in revenue to the Africatel portfolio, while the Cabo Verde assets were bringing in revenue of 70 million euro and São Tomé 13 million euro. MTC shares alone were valued at more than half of Africatel’s total value of N$5 billion at the time.