The Honduran government is reportedly preparing to begin the long-anticipated privatisation of state-owned Hondutel by selling a controlling stake in the telco, El Heraldo reports. Rigoberto Romero, the president of the Controlling Commission in charge of the struggling telco, announced that the management of Hondutel has 120 days to identify a specialised investment bank to assist the Commission in the search for a strategic partner. According to the Controlling Commission’s report, the plan is to establish a joint venture with a private investor, who ‘could obtain 51% of the stake, while the government retains 22.5% of the shares, 22.5% are distributed between employees and the remaining 4% are publicly owned.’ The executive also said that ‘the company has received several proposals’, although he did not reveal any further details. During the presentation of the report, Honduran president Porfirio Lobo also confirmed that the government will award one of the previously announced Long Term Evolution (LTE)-suitable spectrum blocks to Hondutel in order to operate a 4G network.
As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, in early September Honduras’ National Congress approved a budget proposal of HNL3.322 billion (USD162.924 million) for 2013 to keep the state-owned telco afloat. The deputy of the National Congress, Rodolfo Irias Navas, stated at the time that the current situation at Hondutel cannot continue, and argued that foreign companies should be allowed to invest in the company. However, the executive added that the measures approved by the National Congress only ‘lengthen the life of a dying man.’ According to the authorities, as of September 2013 Hondutel has liabilities of USD96 billion in unpaid wages and owes its suppliers around USD40 million. Further, the company faces a contingent liability of USD125 million that includes claims that are still being processed.