On The Money - In Brief

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

- Egyptian operator Orascom Telecom announced that it is to acquire a 19.3% interest in Hutchison Whampoa's emerging markets spin off, Hutchison Telecoms International (HTIL) for a total of HK$10.1 billion (US$1.3 billion).

- The Tunisian government is delaying the deadline for bids in its auction of a 35% stake in state-owned telco Tunisie Télécom. Reuters reports that interested bidders will now have an extra six weeks beyond the original cut-off date of 31 January. It now seems unlikely that a sale will be completed by mid-2006. Of the 13 firms which initially registered their interest in bidding for the stake it is expected that just four or five will actually enter final bids. Bouygues Telecom of France became the latest potential suitor to walk away this week.

- Africa's largest mobile phone operator MTN may bid for Egypt's third mobile phone licence as part of a consortium with Cairo-based telecoms firm Raya Holding, a statement from Raya said. Egypt has said it planned to accept bids in early 2006 for the licence, which will be for both second generation (2G) and 3G mobile services. The new network is expected to start operating by the end of 2006 or early 2007. Vodafone Egypt and the Egyptian Company for Mobile Services (Mobinil) currently operate the only two mobile phone networks in Egypt, which has a population of more than 70 million. Both companies provide a 2G mobile service. "The MTN Group brings to the consortium its wide experience in establishing and running world-class cellular networks," the statement continued. The other members of the consortium are Egyptian developers Golden Pyramids Plaza and Stars Communications.

- The privatisation of Algerie Telecom will start as soon as the Government Council reached a decision. The Council will fix the ceiling and percentage of capital that Algerie Telecom will offer to potential bidders. There are already about 40 private companies that have shown some interest. Boudjemaa Haïchour, the Minister of the Post and ICT explained during a TV interview that Algerie Telecom is financially sound with a profit of over $2,5 billions. Although the company is about to loose its monopoly on fixed lines as the Consortium Telecom Egypt & Orascom Telecom Holding will start operating this month. The consortium was granted a licence in March 05 to roll out a fixed telecommunication network for local and international calls under the provision of the unbundling of the local loop in Algeria.

- The R15,6bn bid by UK cellular company Vodafone to take over VenFin has won approval from the Competition Commission. The commission has recommended unconditionally that the Competition Tribunal should approve the acquisition and allow Vodafone to sell the surplus assets acquired in the deal to a new entity, Newco. Those "surplus assets" are all the shares that VenFin holds in other companies, since Vodafone is interested only in obtaining the 15% stake that VenFin holds in cellular operator Vodacom.

- Bytes' quest for Business Connexion fails. Bytes Technology CEO Dave Redshaw said at the weekend that negotiations for his company to take over Business Connexion failed because he was not prepared to pay the amount the firm thought its operations were worth. Telkom was another bidder for black-empowered Business Connexion, but also failed to meet the asking price, resulting in the collapse of talks with both high-profile suitors.