Sonitel of Niger taken over by ZTE Corp of China

Updated:2001/11/12 09:00


Chinese telecoms firm ZTE Corp made the highest offer for a majority stake in
Niger's state telecoms company, Sonitel, outbidding rival France Telecom, the
economy ministry said on Thursday.

According to the national commission at the ministry charged with analysing the
offers, ZTE bid 11.8 billion CFA francs ($16.1 million) while a consortium made
up of France Telecom and Senegal's Sonatel offered 6.5 billion francs.

Niger relaunched the privatisation procedure for Sonitel in September, nine
months after a previous sale fell through when it failed to attract bids.
Privatisation Minister Trapside Fatima said Niger would keep 34 percent after
the privatisation.

The landlocked former French colony, the biggest country in West Africa, has a
population of 10 million.

Sonitel's fixed-line network capacity is 25,000 lines. Niger said last year it
wanted to boost that number to 77,000 by 2010.

Shenzhen-based ZTE Corp is run by the state and is China's largest listed
telecoms manufacturer. It has expanded overseas by exporting networking
products, setting up joint ventures and investing in local communication

Earlier this year, ZTE won a tender to convert Sonitel's mobile arm to the GSM
standard, making it the third mobile operator with a GSM licence along with
Telecel and Celtel.

The Chinese company is now set to take a 51 percent stake in both Sonitel and
its mobile arm, Sahel Com, through reserved capital increases. Sonitel is
currently 98 percent owned by the state and employs 1,300 people.

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