NetOne stake attracts 4 overseas suitors

A total of four non-domestic companies are interested in acquiring between 45 per cent and 50 per cent of NetOne, Zimbabwe’s struggling state-owned operator.

The Zimbabwe Independent reported an American funded Lebanese consortium; a South African telecoms giant; a company based in Abu Dhabi; and a group of overseas investors are jostling for a stake in the operator.

South Africa-based MTN, which had been linked to a deal for NetOne in the past, is not in the running this time, added the publication.

Sources said all four parties are willing to revive NetOne by cleaning up its balance sheet and investing fresh capital. A value for the stake was not disclosed, but sources stated investors will seek to buy the company at a fair price.

“The government of Zimbabwe will be looking to price in a control premium,” read one of the bids reportedly under consideration. “We envisage that the deal will be able to put an offer that will be acceptable to all parties, based on a fair valuation of the business.”

GSMA Intelligence figures place NetOne as the country’s second largest operator with 5 million connections behind market leader Econet Wireless. It is, however, struggling due to corporate governance and corruption issues.

Last week, the company suspended its CEO Lazarus Muchenje for gross misconduct, after he sued Zimbabwe’s minister of ICT and cybersecurity Supa Mandiwanzira, six board members and nine NetOne executives for interfering in the running of the company.

Zimbabwe’s government previously blocked several bids from strategic investors looking to take over or partner with NetOne, including MTN.