This week marked the deadline for bids for two new Ethiopia telecommunication licenses on April 26. Two offers were received in Addis Ababa; one by MTN (Mauritius) and the other for a “Global Partnership for Ethiopia”, a consortium by Vodafone, Vodacom, Sumitomo and Safaricom.
This is part of an overdue privatization push by Ethiopia that has continued even as political tensions have flared up in different parts of the country. The licenses do not include mobile money, but that is something that currently monopoly, Ethio Telecom has been granted and hopes to launch soon. It is expected that others who did not bid for mobile licenses such as Orange may bid for the partial privatization of Ethio Telecom which has 50 million subscribers.
Can Safaricom grow in this market 110 million population strong-market? That has been a goal of Safaricom’s management for the last few years. But a January 2021 report by Citi Bank was negative on the “high risk, high return” venture which will impact Safaricom’s earnings in the short to medium term. This was due to the impact of Covid-19 on the risk profile of all potential investors in Ethiopia, but also as, by taking a controlling stake in the consortium, the Ethiopia operations will be consolidated in Safaricom’s financials. Citi expects that Safaricom would raise half a billion dollars of debt to contribute to the consortium which would put an end to special dividends paid by the firm.
After technical and financial evaluations of the two qualified bids, a decision is expected by mid-May 2021.
Also, see more about MTN, from their Nigeria listing.