Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

The long-awaited judgement in Econet Wireless International's (EWI's) dispute with Vee Mobile (formerly Econet Wireless Nigeria) is expected to conclude within a week, now that the arbitration hearing is under way.

The three-member tribunal of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) began the landmark hearing in Paris yesterday, hoping to finally resolve the shareholder dispute between the two organisations that has been on the go for the past 18 months.

EWI, which set up the Nigerian operation with funding from local investors and which also holds 5% equity in Vee Mobile, claims the dispute was triggered by Vee's decision to sell a 51% controlling interest in the business to Vodacom SA.

According to EWI's CEO, Strive Masiyiwa, his company had preferential rights to acquire the 51% stake in Vee, as there was a right of first refusal for EWI enshrined in the shareholder agreement.

The company then turned to the United Nations' Permanent Court of Arbitration to resolve its dispute with Vee, as the decision of the tribunal will be final and binding.

“The arbitrators' decision will be final, meaning this is basically a winner-takes-all process – which is exactly the way I like it,” says Masiyiwa.

He claims the reason for going to the PCA is because Nigeria is a signatory to the UN charter, so the government will quickly enforce any ruling made by the international body.

“We wanted something that would definitely bind the government into enforcing a ruling, and we wanted a process that would be fast-tracked and be final and binding,” he says.

Masiyiwa is in Nigeria with a team of international lawyers and is expected to be the first witness called to testify, followed by Tunde Oyewole, representing the other shareholders.