January 20, 2011 / 6:39 AM / 8 years ago

Libya's LAP buys stake in Niger's Sonitel

NIAMEY (Reuters) - Libya’s LAP Green Networks agreed to buy a 51 percent stake in Niger’s state telecommunications company Sonitel for 31 billion CFA francs, the government and the company said on Wednesday.

“I am delighted with the signing of this agreement which offers promising prospects for Sonitel,” Niger Prime Minister Mahamadou Danda said at a press conference.

The deal gives LAP a controlling stake in Sonitel and its subsidiary SahelCom for a 10-year license period, and extends the Libyan company’s reach across Africa after other deals, including the purchase of a 75 percent stake in Zambia’s fixed-line operator Zamtel in June.

Chief Executive Officer Abdul Basit Al Azzabi said LAP plans to invest some $146 million over five years to modernize the Sonitel-SahelCom network and broaden its capacity.

The agreement comes as Niger approaches presidential elections meant to restore civilian rule in the West African state, one of the world’s poorest countries, after a military coup in February 2009.

A previous deal to sell Sonitel to Libyan-Chinese group Dataport was reversed by Niger in 2009 after the country alleged the company did not uphold its promise to modernize the network.

Other telecommunications companies operating in Niger include Bharti Airtel, Atlantique Telecom’s Moov, and France Telecom’s Orange.

Niger’s junta this month said it was planning to impose new taxes on telecoms companies in the country in 2011 to help fund higher state spending, but did not provide details.

An election to restore civilian rule is scheduled for January 31, with a possible run-off seen in March.

LAP also has operations in Rwanda, Uganda, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Chad and Togo, Azzabi said.

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