Airtel Kenya resolves Essar licence dispute with regulator

Airtel Kenya resolves Essar licence dispute with regulator

Airtel Kenya has reportedly resolved a seven-year dispute with the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) over its operating licence in an out of court settlement.

Business Daily reports that Airtel Kenya has agreed to pay the regulator KES2 billion (USD17.5 million) across the next two years in order to renew its licence.

The licensing dispute relates to Airtel’s partial acquisition of Essar Telecom Kenya in late 2014. Airtel Kenya’s 15-year licence expired on 27th January 2015, and following this date the operator has provided services using the concession originally held by Essar. This permit was issued on 1st July 2007 and does not expire until January 2025.

Airtel Kenya claims that the CA agreed to merge the two concessions when it originally acquired Essar’s assets, but then demanded a KES2.15 billion renewal fee once the transaction was finalised. The regulator claims that Essar’s licence was non-transferrable.

TeleGeography reports that the settlement allows Airtel to request exemption from legislation obliging telecoms firms to be at least 30% owned by domestic shareholders by March 2024.

CA director-general Ezra Chiloba said: “We have had this long-standing dispute with Airtel over the Essar transaction. The dispute has been there for seven years. But I am glad to report that we struck a deal and this is a major achievement for us.”

“Taxpayers are guaranteed of receiving about KES2 billion in the next two years. Airtel came up with a payment plan, which we agreed on. The idea was to have this matter resolved so that they can also start focusing on investing properly in this particular space.”

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