Unitel investor Isabel dos Santos talks Telecel takeover with Zimbabwe ministers

Unitel, Angola's largest mobile operator, fuelled reports it is gearing up to acquire a stake in Zimbabwe-based Telecel after senior executives met with Zimbabwe government ministers.

Isabel dos Santos, owner of Unitel and daughter of Angola's President Eduardo dos Santos, led a Unitel delegation that discussed potential telecoms investments with Zimbabwe's Ministry of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services, sources told the Zimbabwe Independent.

Win Mlambo, Zimbabwe's deputy ICT minister, declined to comment specifically on dos Santos' interest, telling the newspaper only that discussions with potential investors in the country's telecoms business is "normal" due to the sector being a lucrative market.

While the minister hinted that any talks with dos Santos and Unitel were at a high level, the Zimbabwe Independent suggested the parties discussed the sale of a stake in Telecel, the country's third-largest operator.

VimpelCom, which currently holds a 60 per cent stake in Telecel, is seeking an exit, with Unitel and South African rival MTN both tipped as interested parties in a separate Zimbabwe Independent report.

That report also noted that Telecel shareholders are resisting attempts by Patrick Zhuwao--nephew of Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe--to acquire a locally-held 40 per cent stake in the operator and establish himself as CEO.

Meanwhile, Supa Mandiwanzira, Zimbabwe's Information Communication Technology minister, said he would move to close Telecel for failing to meet its licence terms and for breaching regulations, the newspaper added. Sources told the newspaper that Telecel is on the brink of bankruptcy, and is running an overdraft of $500,000 (€474,419) after shareholders and directors stripped it of its cash.

Dos Santos is thought to have turned her attention to Africa after dropping a €1.2 billion ($1.26 billion) bid to acquire Portugal Telecom SGPS through her Portuguese company Terra Peregrin.

Portugal Telecom SGPS had rejected the offer, stating it did not reflect the company's true value.

For more:
- see this Zimbabwe Independent report
- read this separate article from the newspaper

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