Just a few months after it was reported that Vodafone Fiji would manage Papua New Guinean mobile network operator bemobile, the Post Courier claims that the deal has been called off. Citing sources within the telecoms industry, the report claims that ongoing differences between the two parties over the use of a contractor to roll out the joint-venture’s new infrastructure are responsible for the breakdown of the deal. Peter O’Neill, the prime minister of Papua New Guinea (PNG), confirmed the development, while also corroborating suggestions that governance issues relating to a contractor could not be resolved. ‘Unfortunately … the negotiations have been difficult in the sense that there were management issues about some contractual obligations that we as a country felt needed to be negotiated properly because of governance issues. Unfortunately those issues were not able to be resolved,’ the PM said, adding: ‘We have an issue with a contractor who has got issues with [the] government in Papua New Guinea and that contractor needs to be cleared properly before it conducts further business in this country. We have an existing contract with that contractor.’
It is understood that the Fiji National Provident Fund (FNPF), which has a 40% stake in the joint venture, has been advised of the PNG Government’s decision not to move forward with the plans. Meanwhile, following the breakdown of the deal, PM O’Neill has said that efforts to resurrect bemobile’s fortunes will once again be tasked to state-owned Independent Public Business Corporation (IPBC), a statutory corporation that holds a number of state-owned enterprises, and fixed line incumbent Telikom PNG.