The government of Ghana has confirmed it is in advanced stages of discussions with telecom players Airtel and Tigo for the temporal acquisition of complete ownership of the company.
A statement from the Ministry of Communications read “The Government of Ghana, Airtel and Tigo are in advanced stages of discussions for the transfer of AirtelTigo shares to the Government of Ghana along with all customers, assets and agreed liabilities.”
This comes after Indian-based Bharti Airtel, the mother company of Airtel announced to its shareholders through a letter to the Indian National Stock Exchange that it was in advanced talks with the government of Ghana for the transfer of 100% of its shares to the latter as part of moves to leave Ghana completely.
The letter noted that the shares are being sold to Ghana government at ₹184 crore (US$25 million).
Ghana’s Communication Ministry said the transaction will be concluded by the execution of definitive agreements shortly, adding that government would only operate Airtel temporarily before handing it over.
“The Government of Ghana through this transaction, will temporarily operate this national asset in the best interest of the nation, and ensure the protection of the interests of all employees, customers and stakeholders, and a continuation of the digital transformation in Ghana,” it said.
The statement noted that given the multiplier impact the telecommunications sector has on the economy and various related industries, the Government of Ghana has entered into this agreement to ensure that thousands of Ghanaian jobs are safe guarded.
“It is of critical importance that the telecommunications sector remains healthy, dynamic, vibrant, and most importantly, competitive,” it added.
Bharti Airtel in 2017 merged with Millicom’s Tigo in Ghana to become the country’s second largest mobile operator, AirtelTigo, with the approval of The National Communications Authority (NCA).
AirtelTigo serves around 5.1 million subscribers and offers direct and indirect employment opportunities to almost 10,000 people.
Celtel International acquired 75% of Western Telesystems Ltd (Westel) from the Government of Ghana for $120 million in 2007. Celtel was subsequently acquired by the Zain Group which also sold all its African Assets to Bharti Airtel for an estimated US$300 million in an offshore deal in 2010.
The Government of Ghana remained a shareholder in Airtel Ghana with a 25% holding through the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation, until the AirtelTigo merger, and retained an option to acquire additional shares after the merger.
Westel was at the time of the takeover by Celtel, the second national operator in Ghana and was licensed to provide fixed and mobile (GSM) telecommunications services.
Millicom Ghana Limited, was the first mobile telecommunications company to operate in the country under the brand name Mobitel before rebranding to become Tigo.