In a statement issued on 20 February 2014, the Republic of Benin’s government announced its decision to privatise an 80% stake in Libercom, the wholly-owned mobile subsidiary of state-owned incumbent fixed line operator Benin Telecoms. As reported by Agence Ecofin, the announcement stated that ‘the procedure for opening the capital of Libercom SA, initiated by the government, aims to identify and select a private investor or an international telecom operator, [whether in] a consortium or not, to enter the capital [with a] stake [of] 80% in order to ensure the development of [the cellco’s] potential through investments that allow for a more efficient use of technical resources available through [its] technology-neutral licence.’
TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database says that Benin Telecoms and Libercom have struggled financially since a build-operate-transfer (BOT) agreement with US-based Titan Africa designed to run for the period 2000-2009 was scrapped early after Titan was found guilty of bribery and corruption by a US court. Despite the precarious financial state of its parent, Libercom agreed to pay the increased licence fee demanded by the incoming Yayi administration in 2007, but it remains a long way adrift in fifth place in the country’s cellular market. GlobalComms adds that Benin’s president Boni Yayi ordered the relevant authorities to initiate the privatisation of the struggling GSM operator in November 2012, with France’s Orange Group thought to be the likely purchaser – having previously been in stop-start negotiations over a possible takeover of Benin Telecoms – but no developments followed.