Virus delays Liquid Telecom stake sale – but helps Philippines operators

Virus delays Liquid Telecom stake sale – but helps Philippines operators

Some of the more unusual recently reported side-effects of the coronavirus pandemic have been delays to the sale of part of Africa’s largest fibre company and extensions of operator licences in the Philippines.

According to Bloomberg, Zimbabwean billionaire and founder of Econet Global Strive Masiyiwa can’t seem to find buyers for a stake of 20 percent to 34 percent of his company Liquid Telecommunications Holdings Ltd. Estimates of $600 million have been given for the likely value of the sale, which is apparently required to pay back a large loan for a pay-TV venture that foundered due to Zimbabwe’s economic problems and currency shortages.

Talks with potential investors on the sale of the fibre giant were apparently affected by the spread of Covid-19 in March, with buyers adopting a wait-and-see approach, given the potential effect of lockdowns on Africa’s economies.

In normal circumstances Liquid Telecom, which operates in 13 countries in East, Central and southern Africa and has data centres in South Africa and Kenya, might seem an attractive purchase. But these aren’t normal circumstances.

The pandemic has brought slightly better news for telecommunications services providers and broadcasters in the Philippines, however. According to TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, the Philippines regulator, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), has issued a memorandum extending all existing permits, certificates and licences until 31 December 2020, citing the many ‘mobility limitation issues in many regions around the country’ due to lockdown restrictions. All parties enjoying this extension will need to renew permits or licences on or before the last working day of December 2020.

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