The long and winding privatisation process for Gabon Telecom concluded last Friday with Vivendi’s Maraoc Telecom as the winner. There are two parts to the business: Gabon Telecom, the fixed line incumbent and its mobile subsidiary, Libertis. The sale will come as a relief to the Gabon government as the company has been under considerable pressure in the run-up to the sale.

Maroc Telecom has bought 51% of the company. Moroccan Moustapha Laarabi has been named D-G of the group and Souah Thomas, currently PDG of Libertis has been named Président, Conseil d'Administration.

This is the second successful Vivendi bid in sub-Saharan Africa after its recent purchase of Onatel in Burkina Faso. The company seems prepared to take on failing fixed line incumbents in order to gain lucrative mobile operations. This second purchase seems to signal Vivendi’s return to the region after its sale of its stake in Kencell to Celtel in May 2004.

Gabon Telecom is one of three SAT3 Consortium members charging around US$15,000 per mbps per month for international connectivity along with Angola Telecom and Camtel. It will be interesting to see whether the new management will switch from a “high price, low volume strategy” to one of “low price, high volume” on international connectivity.