Vodafone is selling its Ghana operations to Telecel, an Africa-focused telcos group.
The idea behind the sale, according to sources, is to allow the British telco giant to focus on its key markets. Telecel, on their part, reportedly aims to fund the purchase by selling off Vodafone Ghana’s mobile towers.
In a major turn of events, however, Ghana’s telcos regulatory body, the National Communications Authority (NCA), has decided against approving the acquisition. The Authority has failed to grant the regulatory approval needed to legalize the sale.
In a press release issued on August 2, the NCA said:
In January 2022, the NCA received an application for the transfer of 70% majority shares in Ghana Telecommunications Company Limited (Vodafone Ghana) from Vodafone International Holdings B.V. to the Telecel Group. In accordance with due process, the Authority evaluated the application on various criteria and engaged both Vodafone and Telecel Group. After a critical regulatory review and evaluation, the NCA concluded that the request did not meet the regulatory threshold for approval to be granted.NCA Press Release
In an interview with a local radio station, Ghana’s Minister for Communications, Ursula Owusu, provided additional justification for the denial of the acquisition.
She noted that there were concerns that “Telecel were a very small operator and did not have the technical and financial muscle to be able to take on the challenging environment that we have in the telecom sector here in Ghana.”
In a reply, Telecel stated that it would continue to engage with the authorities until a consensus was met.
Vodafone Ghana began operations in 2008 when its parent company paid the government $900 million for 70% of the then Ghana Telecom Company Limited. The government maintained 30% ownership of the business — a stake it holds to this day.
It is unclear why Vodafone wishes to exit Ghana at this time, but some analysts believe that the economic effects of the pandemic may have compelled the company to re-focus its efforts.
What happens now?
Telecel has a reputation for growth through acquisitions. In recent years, the company has made agreements in Mauritania, Liberia, and Gibraltar. Already, it owns and runs many mobile carriers in Africa and Europe, in addition to offering wholesale, enterprise, and digital security services to other operators and companies throughout the world.
It remains to be seen, however, if an expansion into Ghana will be plausible.
Stakeholder discourse is still ongoing.