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National Provident Fund to sell shares in Solomon Islands Telekom to Fiji's Amalgamated Telecoms Holding

The Solomon Islands National Provident Fund (NPF) has confirmed holding talks with Fiji’s biggest telecommunications company to sell part of its shares in Solomon Telekom to them.

NPF general manager Mike Wate confirmed this in response to enquiries the Solomon Star made to his office.

The Solomon Star was earlier told NPF has been talking with Amalgamated Telecoms Holding of Fiji (ATH) about selling some of its shares in Our Telekom to the Fijian company.

NPF holds 97.32% shares in Our Telekom, while the remaining shares were held by the Investment Corporation of Solomon Islands (ICSI), the government’s investment arm.

Wate said:

“…. yes, we are talking with ATH Fiji on a Non-Disclosure Agreement with them on a potential partial sale down of NPF shares in Solomon Telekom.

“Under the Non-Disclosure Agreement, both parties are refrained from discussing the potential partnership in the media.

“The discussions are for a partial sale down of NPF shares to the interested selected party.”

ATH Fiji is majority owned by the Fiji National Provident Fund, which holds 52.2 per cent shares, while the Fiji Government owns 34.6 per cent shares.

The remaining shares were held by other Fijian companies.

According to ATH’s 2018 Financial Report, the company confirmed it met with Solomon Islands National Provident Fund last year.

The report stated ATH is interested in investing in telecommunications in Solomon Islands.

It is evident that ATH Ltd of Fiji is eyeing expanding into PNG and the Solomon Islands’ telecommunication and ICT sector.

 In 2018 board of directors of ATH, FNPF and NPF met to discuss investment opportunities in the Solomon Islands telecommunications sector.

SINPF is most likely exploring investment opportunities in Fiji as well, possibly investing in the South Pacific Stock exchange through ATH shares.

ATH talks with SINPF in 2018 signals ATH’s appetite for more regional expansion through acquisitions and it is eyeing NPF’s lucrative majority shares in Solomon Telekom.

The Solomon Star was told Solomon Telekom has been restructuring its business operations in recent months.

It is shedding non-core business assets like land and properties, laying off none core business staff and drastically cutting back on its operating costs.

“Basically, Our Telekom has been frantically tidying up its book value and making it attractive for a sale,” sources told the Solomon Star.

“Following ATH business meeting with Our Telekom’s major shareholder SINPF in 2018, it seems all is set for major changes in the ownership composition of Our Telekom,” sources said.

In Fiji, ATH owns Telecom Fiji Ltd, as well as Vodafone Fiji Ltd.

“Would having another Vodafone affiliated business (ATH) owning another Telecom business in Solomon Islands brings us back to the monopoly era?” our source queried.

“We already have Bemobile Vodafone.

“Will we have another company called Our Telekom Vodafone in the near future and would this not be against the spirit of fair competition and market liberalisation?” the source continued.

News of the ATH-NPF talks came as long-time Our Telekom chief executive officer, Loyley Ngira, is leaving the company.

His job as already been advertised.

Ngira has successfully taken Our Telekom through competition and has achieved quite a lot in expanding communication services throughout the country.

Attempts to talk to him on Thursday were unsuccessful.

Observers said if ATH becomes the majority shareholder, it will naturally demand operational control of Our Telekom.

This means managers in ATH 100% owned Vodafone Fiji will be placed within Our Telekom, similar to what they did for BlueSky Samoa and their other Telecom acquisitions in Vanuatu and Kiribati.

“Do we expect to see Our Telekom changed to Our Telekom Vodafone soon?” observers asked.


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