Huawei and Warid at odds in Cote d’Ivoire

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

A long-running dispute between Warid Telecom and Huawei continues to rumble on in Cote d’Ivoire, where the pair are at odds over existing debts owed for the rollout of Warid’s network.

The fracas appears to be having an impact on Abu Dhabi Group (ADB)-owned Warid’s attempt to sell its dormant Cote d’Ivoire unit, for which it previously hired Lazard to find a buyer for, TMT Finance understands.

Warid acquired a dual-band GSM-900/1800 licence in 2006 for around US$65m but failed to launch its mobile service in 2011 after a major disagreement between Pakistani and local Cote d’Ivoire members involved in the venture. Since then, LapGreenN, Comium and Aircom have all entered the market.

“Cote d’Ivoire as a market is really interesting and is rapidly becoming a hub for West Africa,” one source said. “In-market consolidation is likely – seven players are way too many, and some of the other smaller operators will have been considering a move [for Warid]. However, essentially you’re just buying a licence and minimal infrastructure, so I doubt you’ll see any newcomers looking at this.”

Libyan-owned LapGreenN could be one potential buyer, with the owners ploughing more money into the local unit to pay down debt to the state, and also showing interest in other regional acquisitions such as Tunisie Telecom.

As previously reported in June, LAP GreenN head, Shater Wafik Khalifa, announced what he called important investments and a re-launch for the group’s d’Ivoire mobile operation Oricel GreenN-Côte d'Ivoire. The company said it had 450,000 subscribers at the start of 2013.

TMT Finance notes that Maroc Telecom had also shown initial interest in the Warid Cote d’iVoire asset, although this seems to have taken a back seat to the ongoing talks concerning Maroc’s ownership.

ADB is also currently speaking to buyers for its Warid Pakistan unit which is valued at up to US$1bn, TMT previously reported. Standard Chartered and Lazard are leading the sale which has so far attracted interest from existing players Etisalat, Vimpelcom and China Mobile.

ADB also recently sold its Warid Telecom unit in Uganda to Bharti Airtel.

“The Abu Dhabi Group clearly wants to exit all of telecom ventures, so it’s a case of when, not if,” the source added.