Presidency says India’s Bharti Airtel to give government bigger stake in Airtel Tanzania

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Reuters reports that the president’s office said India’s Bharti Airtel has agreed to give part of its stake in Airtel Tanzania to the government, raising the East African nation’s holding in the mobile phone operator from 40 percent to 49 percent.

To resolve a dispute over ownership of the Tanzanian mobile operator, there were talks in Dar es Salaam between President John Magufuli and Bharti Airtel Chairman Sunil Mittal. The president’s office revealed that Bharti Airtel would retain a 51 percent stake in the company, but failed to state the value of shares being transferred to the government.

In 2017, Magufuli said that state-run Tanzania Telecommunications Company Ltd (TTCL) owned the local subsidiary of Bharti Airtel outright but had been cheated out of shares. The company disagreed, stating that it received all the required approvals from the state when it bought a 60 percent stake and had complied with all government rules.

President Magufuli noted that in addition to giving the government more shares, Bharti Airtel had agreed to pay dividends to the state. He said “it’s great that they have agreed to give dividends to the government, which for eight to 10 years we had not received. The percentage of dividends is still under discussion”.

Foreign investors, who were already unnerved by the government’s crackdown on mining firms operating in Tanzania, were rattled by the president’s ownership claim over the Tanzanian mobile firm.

In 2016, the president ordered telecoms companies to list at least a quarter of their units on Tanzania’s stock exchange to increase domestic ownership.

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