By Samuel Ouga
Orange has signed an agreement with Africell for the sale of its stake in Orange Uganda, a senior official of the French telecom company; Luc Bretones, has revealed in a tweet.
French operator Orange had mandated Lazard to find a buyer for its mobile telecoms business in Uganda, hot on the heels of the sale of Warid Telecom’s local unit to Bharti Airtel, and the acquisition of Sure telecom by Smart Telecom in Uganda.
Orange is thought to be planning an exit from several markets in Africa where it does not already hold a number one or two spot. Aside from Uganda, which is thought to be the only geography where an official process was underway, this could also include Orange’s mobile businesses in Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo and Niger, among others.
Uganda’s mobile market is dominated by MTN and Bharti Airtel. The latter acquired the third largest operator Warid Telecom for around US$100m from the Abu Dhabi Group in May 2013. MTN has around 8.5 million subscribers in Uganda, while post-merger, Airtel has over 7.5 million. The next largest is Uganda Telecom’s UT Mobile unit, with Orange Uganda among the country’s smaller operators.
Next up for Orange could be the sale of its mobile unit in Kenya, formerly Telkom Kenya Orange, which has been struggling against larger rivals Vodafone-backed Safaricom and Bharti Airtel’s local unit, with continual losses which are unlikely to plateau until 2016 at the earliest.
A decision by Orange to exit the market could be accelerated following the news that fourth place Essar’s yuMobile will be sold and split between Orange’s rivals, with Safaricom to buy yu’s infrastructure, and Airtel to get its 2.7 million subscribers.
Orange has struggled to make a dent in Uganda’s mobile market where MTN and Airtel dominate.
Africell Holding; Founded by a Labanese telecom investor first set foot in Africa in Gambia where it enjoys over 64% dominance of the market. Africell Holding fully owns three mobile subsidiaries; Africell Gambia, Africell Sierra Leone and Africell DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo) with a combined active subscriber base of over 7 million as of the fourth quarter; 2013.
Africell is expecting to end the year 2014 with close to 11 million active subscribers, placing the telecom company amongst the largest privately owned telecom companies in Africa.
All three operations have 3G licenses; both The Gambia and Sierra Leone are 3G operational with DR Congo to finish 3G deployment before the end of Q2 2014. Africell is actively looking to expand into a minimum of 2 new countries over the coming 2 years, which would allow it to reach 15 million active subscribers.
With the acquisition of Orange Uganda, Africell sets its foot into the competitive East African Market.
Orange Telecom in Uganda could also be renamed; Africell Uganda.