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Orange wants to buy 40% stake in Ethio Telecom

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French operator Orange wants to buy a stake in Ethio Telecom – that's according to a tweet from Ethiopia's ambassador to Paris this week.

Henok Teferra Shawl – who is the Ethiopian ambassador to France, Spain, Portugal, Holy See and Monaco – said in the tweet that he had "fruitful discussions" with the team from Orange and that the telco had "formally submitted interest to participate in the partial privatization of @ethiotelecom".

Last month, Ethiopia's government officially opened the tendering process to private investors for the sale of a 40% stake in state-owned Ethio Telecom.

The sale has been on the cards for quite some time as part of the government's broader plan to open up the economy and liberalize the telecoms sector in the Horn of Africa nation.

The 40% stake will likely be sold to a single investor while another 5% stake will be sold to local investors, possibly through an initial public offering, with the Ethiopian government retaining 55% of the company.

The consortium of Safaricom, Vodacom and Vodafone – known as the Global Partnership for Ethiopia (GPE) – was awarded an operating license in Ethiopia in May, becoming the first international operator to be given the chance to operate in the country.

The consortium which also includes backing from Japan's Sumitomo Corporation and the UK's development finance institution CDC plans to start providing telecoms services in Ethiopia from 2022.

In May, a senior advisor to the Ethiopian Ministry of Finance, Brook Taye, said that the government had expected Orange to bid for one of the two new telecoms licenses that were up for grabs, but it did not.

MTN missed out on the second license when its bid of $600 million was seen as too low compared to the $850 million offered by the Global Partnership for Ethiopia consortium.

With a population of over 110 million, Ethiopia is Africa's second most populous country and presents a major growth opportunity for operators.

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Paula Gilbert, Editor, Connecting Africa

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