Madagascar’s fixed line incumbent, Telecom Malagasy (Telma), is understood to be holding talks over a possible entrance into neighbouring Comoros, where the African island nation’s government is currently holding an international tender to privatise its state owned PTO Comores Telecom (Comtel). TMT Finance says that Telma is considering various acquisition opportunities across the region, and has hired Lazard to find it an investor, or sell off its towers portfolio in order to raise funds for acquisitions. One unnamed source is quoted as saying that whilst there is not much enthusiasm for Telma yet, a number of groups have been looking at it, although the ‘price expectation was deemed too high’. The source is quoted as saying too that the sell-off of the tower process is also complicated and will not be ‘a top priority for towercos at the moment’.
In January this year, the government of the Union of Comoros launched the privatisation of Comtel via an international auction. Under the plan the Ministry of Economy and Finance is looking to divest a 51% stake in the incumbent operator to private investors. The remaining 49% equity will be retained by the government (34%), and 15% will be held by Comtel employees. TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate reported in November 2012 that the government had published expressions of interest for the majority stake on offer, requesting that interested parties submit applications, including information on their business and their reasons for wishing to participate in the tender process. As a precursor to the sale, the Ministry confirmed its intention to restructure Comtel, which has 230,000 mobile and around 23,600 fixed line subscribers, transferring its primary assets to a new legal entity (Newco). The privatisation of the operator was one of the recommendations of the International Monetary Fund, as part of the country’s plan to reach the completion point of its Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) programme, the external debt relief for which amounted to EUR133 million (USD174.7 million).