Prize asset: Nobel winner Yunus wants GrameenPhone to be controlled by Bangladeshis

8 Jan 2007

The head of Grameen Bank, Muhammad Yunus, announced on Friday that he intends to take majority control of Bangladeshi mobile market leader GrameenPhone, in order to better serve the country’s poor. GrameenPhone was launched in 1996 and is 62%-owned by Norway’s Telenor, with the other 38% held by Grameen Bank’s non-profit organisation Grameen Telecom, but Yunus said that the company was originally intended to be controlled by domestic investors. The financier was speaking to the press upon arrival in Oslo where he and a representative of the bank were presented with the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize on Sunday for their pioneering of the ‘microcredit’ concept of small loans for rural entrepreneurs. Based on the microcredit model, GrameenPhone’s Village Phone programme distributes GSM phones, mainly to women who set up public payphone businesses in poor rural communities. At the end of August 2006, according to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, there were more than 253,000 Village Phones in operation in over 50,000 villages across the country, up from the December 2004 total of 95,000 operators in 28,000 villages. Telenor has said that no agreement exists to hand over control of GrameenPhone to Grameen Telecom, and that it has ploughed ‘almost all its profits’ back into the company to the good of the country. At the end of September 2006, GrameenPhone had 9.4 million mobile subscribers, or 54% of the market.

Bangladesh , GrameenPhone (GP), Telenor Group

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