KENYAN INVESTMENT FIRM SEEKS TO INTEREST MTN IN VIVENDI’S SAFRICOM STAKE

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

A leading Kenyan investment firm said last week it had approached South Africa’s MTN Group to lead a consortium in bidding for a stake in the country’s second largest mobile phone operator.

Tony Wainaina, the chief executive officer of ICDC Investment Co., said his company was eyeing a 60 percent stake in Kenyan mobile service provider Kencell that is owned by French-American media group Vivendi. It has said it wants to dispose of its interest in Kencell as part of a debt reduction plan.

Wainaina said a proposal put forward by the ICDC to mobile phone company MTN had also recommended that the expected MTN-led consortium should consider bidding for a third mobile licence offered by the government last month.

"We have already started talking in a very informal way with MTN trying to get them to take an interest in responding to the pre-qualification notice for the third cellular licence and the Vivendi opportunity," Wainaina told Reuters in an interview.

Wainana said he expected a reply from MTN in the next few weeks. Kencell, which started operating in August 2000, has about 600,000 subscribers, compared with the 650,000-700,000 of competitor Safaricom, which is a joint venture between state-owned Telkom Kenya and Britain’s Vodafone.

In 1999, ICDC was part of a consortium led by MTN that competed for the second mobile licence but lost to a joint venture between Vivendi and local investment firm Sameer Group. The company was also part of the Mount Kenya Consortium, which won a bid to purchase a 49 percent stake in Telkom Kenya, but the government cancelled the deal in late 2001.

Wainaina said ICDC, which is the major shareholder in regional supermarket chain Uchumi and the local Coca Cola bottling company, remained keen to enter the telecoms sector. "We will continue until we get something because we feel that this is a sector that we cannot be left out of," Wainaina said.

MTN runs South Africa’s second largest cellphone network and has ventured into Africa in the face of a maturing market at home. It has businesses in western, eastern and central Africa.

The East African