Bharti Airtel is never far from an African mobile industry headline, it seems. Only days after agreeing to acquire Tigo Rwanda, the Indian giant is having to defend its 60% stake in Airtel Tanzania.
Tanzania's President John Magufuli has called into question the validity of Airtel's acquisition of a 60% stake in the mobile operator in 2010, a move that left the government with the remaining 40% stake, according to this Reuters report, which adds that Magufuli wants to claim total state ownership of the service provider.
Naturally, Bharti Airtel says the deal was all done in accordance with the rules and regulations and that it has not received any communications suggesting otherwise.
Magufuli has previously given the country's mobile operators plenty to consider, as in 2016 he ordered all operators to list at least 25% of their shares on the Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange (DSE) to boost local ownership. Vodacom Tanzania listed its shares in August, while Tigo and Airtel are still waiting for their IPOs to be approved.
According to statistics from the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) for the third quarter of 2017, Vodacom is the market leader, with almost 12.9 million customers for a 32% share of a hotly-contested market that boasts about 40 million subscribers in total. Tigo Tanzania holds a 28% market share while Airtel Tanzania is just behind with 27% of the market. The smallest operator is number four player Halotel, with a 9% market share with 3.8 million customers.
— The staff, Connecting Africa