Money – In Brief

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

- France Telecom’s 40%-owned Moroccan affiliate Medi Telecom (Meditel) has posted a 126% year-on-year rise in its net profit in 2010 to MAD623 million (USD78 million), on a 7% rise in turnover to MAD5.7 billion, reports Reuters quoting the MAP news agency. Meditel’s total number of customers rose 14% in the year to 10.8 million, nearly all mobile GSM/HPSA users. The company has also announced that it has completed a fibre-optic backbone route connecting Settat, Beni Mellal, Khouribga and Oued Zem, giving the GSM/HSPA-based operator a total of 2,425km of fibre backhaul infrastructure to support mobile base stations, WiMAX and terrestrial links.

-Omen International Consortium, the reserve buyer for state-run incumbent telco Nigeria Telecommunications (NITEL), has failed to revalidate its interest in buying the struggling operator, local news paper This Day reports, citing unnamed government sources. Last month the British Virgin Islands-registered Omen consortium, which includes China Unicom and Fiber Home Technologies Limited, was invited by the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) to re-register its interest in buying NITEL, after preferred buyer New Generation Telecommunications repeatedly failed to meet the payment deadlines for its bid of USD2.5 billion. Omen was said to have re-examined its bid and all that had transpired since the auction and concluded that it would be unable to raise the money it offered for NITEL. Omen offered USD956.9 million for a 75% stake.

- South African telecoms regulator the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) intends to reintroduce a stipulation that companies applying for access to radio frequency spectrum must have at least 30% of their equity in the hands of Historically Disadvantaged Individuals (HDI); the definition of HDI differs from traditional Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) rules since it includes women of all races and people with disabilities. The move could see major telecoms players such as MTN and Vodacom sidelined in this year's long-awaited auction for spectrum in the 2.6GHz and 3.5GHz bands. Although ICASA removed the 30% requirement in its last set of draft regulations - following heavy industry pressure - the new regulations are believed to be final. Whilst HDI stipulations are widely applied to ownership, it is thought that this is the first time that the clause has been applied to radio spectrum. The new regulations will not affect spectrum already held by South African operators, only frequencies they apply for in the future.