France Telcom, the parent company to Orange Mobile, pumped cash into Orange Botswana to jerk up its stake to 69 percent in a deal that saw a consortium of Batswana investors walking away with hundreds of millions of pula as Christmas presents.
“We off-loaded 20 percent of the company’s share and now we are left with 26 percent in Orange,” Satar Dada, one of the investors in Mosokelatsebeng Cellular, a consortium of Batswana investors, said on Friday.
Although Dada did not want to be drawn into the discussion of the actual value of the 20 percent stake, it is believed that the French company paid no less than P 400 million.
Mosokelatsebeng Cellular is owned by about 30 prominent business people, including one cabinet minister.
The move is understood to be aimed at pre-empting one of the South African cellphone networks that was aiming to give the consortium an offer in a bid to get a share of the Botswana market.
The deal represents one of the biggest single Europe-Botswana commercial transactions outside government and minerals sector and it is also geared towards skills and technological transfers and, at the same time, ensuring the upliftment of Batswana citizens.
Orange Botswana is part of the country’s cellphone networks that includes beMobile and Mascom. The advent of the three mobile operators have closed the communication gap in the country and ensured that Botswana has one of the highest cellphone penetrations in Africa.
“The transaction was effected at the end of last year, in December,” Dada said, adding that before this transaction “we were just getting dividends”.
It is understood that on average each investor walked away with P 21 million for their long Christmas holidays.
Orange Botswana was launched in March 2003, following the acquisition of a 51 percent stake in Vista Cellular, a mobile phone operator established in 1998. Orange Botswana had over 658,000 customers ÔÇô – the majority of them being on pay-as ÔÇôyou- go — as of September 30 2008. France Telecom is listed on Euronext Paris (compartiment A) and on the New York Stock Exchange.
Internationally the, group has a total of 193 million customers sprawled across 32 countries in different continents.
Orange Botswana upgraded its network two years ago as it moved from the old fashioned platform that it has been using since 1998 when it started operations to a more advanced platform called IN (Intelligent Network).
The new system enables the mobile network operator to integrate more products while at the same time giving clients clarity, quality and handle more capacity in terms of products.
The move enabled the company to launch internet services ÔÇô to compete with peers Mascom and BTC — and also move into high volume data transmission services like cellphone banking.