Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

Celtel International has no immediate plans to invest in Zimbabwe, chief executive officer Marten Pieters has said.

Speaking on Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) television's Conversations programme on Sunday evening, Pieters said problems in that country had rendered it unattractive.

"But if things improve in the future, we may invest in Zimbabwe. For now, it is not among our top priorities," he said.

Zimbabwe is experiencing her worst economic crisis since independence, which was triggered by President Robert Mugabe's land re-distribution programme.

Once a darling of the West, Zimbabwe is struggling with run away inflation, a situation compounded by sanctions imposed by the former patrons.

On Celtel Zambia's network problems, Pieters said the group management was aware of the matter which he attributed to phenomenal growth in the subscriber base. "We must understand that three years ago, we only had about 80,000 subscribers but we are now close to one million subscribers," Pieters said.

"This is phenomenal and raises some challenges. But I can assure our clients that we are addressing this problem."

He added that having invested over US $200 million in Zambia so far, the company had provided US $60 million for network improvement this year as a response to customer concerns.

On the international gateway, Pieters said it was important for Zambia to address the matter urgently because it would help the business community conduct business cheaply.

He noted that Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya were the only countries where Celtel had operations that had not liberalised the international gateway.

"Our experience where the gateway has been liberalised is that the cost of international calls goes down and the quality improves. So Zambia needs to act fast on this for the sake of business," Pieters said. "You see, the problem here is that with the fixed lines and three mobile networks, call traffic into and out of Zambia is too much for one international gateway to handle. It is like saying all the airports and border posts are closed and all visitors to Zambia will have to enter through one point. Can you imagine the problems such a situation can cause?"

The East Standard