The Zambian government has dismissed claims that it plans to sell state-owned telecommunications operator Zamtel to India’s Bharti Infratel for an undisclosed amount.
The local Mast newspaper has quoted Zamtel insiders as having confirmed the plans have advanced and officials have had discussions with Bharti Infratel.
However the country’s Minister of Communications and Transport Mutotwe Kafwaya refuted the claims and said: “I should be the one to prepare a cabinet memorandum for the sale of Zamtel but I have not done so because there is completely nothing because the company is not being sold and I’m not aware of anything.”
Zamtel shareholder, the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) group chief executive officer Mateyo Kaluba also rubbished the claims and said the IDC has never engaged any organisation to purchase Zamtel.
He said the IDC board, management and staff had the capacity to turn Zamtel into a viable and profitable business, which would ensure it remains a key player in the telecoms sector.
“Zamtel has attained key milestones in achieving transformation through innovative products and service. Therefore, IDC remains committed to transforming the company as a subsidiary,” Kaluba said.
Details are sketchy and there is no indication of whether or not the deal will go through, and if it does, how many shares will be sold – or why the government intends selling the company that has made significant growth over the past two years.
According to official statistics, the number of Zamtel subscribers now stands at over 3.3 million – up from less than 2 million three years ago, although it is still far behind leaders MTN Zambia and Airtel Zambia.
Bharti Infratel has to date not responded to requests for comment.