Cellular network operator MSI has raised another $62m in equity funding to help expand its African networks and continue to do battle with SA’s own cellular operators, MTN and Vodacom. The company has networks in 12 African countries, including Uganda, where it is a rival to MTN and in Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo where it competes with Vodacom. It also operates a network in Zambia, but a potential clash with Vodacom there was averted when Vodacom chose not to activate a licence it had won, citing regulatory uncertainties (see story below).

MSI announced last week that it had changed its name to Celtel International, the name it has always used as its brand name in the various countries. That decision was made after consumer research across Africa to assess which brand its customers most identified with. With 2,5-million customers, Celtel’s operations are easily dwarfed by Vodacom’s 9.6-million subscribers and MTN’s 7.9-million. But it is full of fighting talk, and last had a fund-raising campaign early last year, when it clawed in 117m and announced plans to intensify its battle against MTN and Vodacom.

Yesterday its CEO Marten Pieters said the latest funding would help it grow organically and through acquisition to become the most successful pan-African telecommunications company an ambition shared by MTN and Vodacom. Celtel’s latest effort to raise more cash saw it win support from three major contributors: Capital International contributed USD38m as the lead investor; FMO, the Netherlands Development Finance Company, put in USD15m; and Blakeney Management invested USD9m.

Celtel International has set aside USD50 million for the expansion of its network in Zambia, write4s Timothy Kasolo, News Update’s Zambian correspondent. Celtel Zambia Managing Director David Venn said this week that his company will improve the lives of the Zambians particularly the subscribers by offering them with effective technology. Venn was speaking at his company’s re-launch of its brand name and change of logo respectively.

He explained that Celtel had invested more that US USD36 million to build the network and its in the process to double number of cell cites which will result in the wider coverage in Zambia. Venn observed that the re-launch represents the next stage by Celtel towards the development of Pan African Telecommunications Company. One of the shareholders in Celtel is the Commonwealth Development Corporation Capital Partners (CDCCP) with over US $ 1.5 billion investment

Business Day and our correspondent