Zambia mute on Russian telecoms firm’s rebuttal on buying Zamtel

The Zambian government has refused to comment on reports in the international media that one of the companies among the short-listed bidders to take a stake in the troubled state-telecommunication firm, Zamtel, has denied showing any interest in the company.

The country’s investment agency, the Zambia Development Agency (ZDA), on Thursday announced that eight international companies have pre-qualified to participate in the partial privatization of Zamtel.

Among the companies that have been short-listed include Altimo Holdings/Vimpelcom of Russia, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam, both of India, as well as LAP Greencom Limited/LAP Green Networks of Libya.

Others are Portugal Telecom, SGPS S.A of Portugal, Telkom SA Limited of South Africa, Orascom Telecom Holdings S.A.E/Telecel Globe Limited of Egypt and UNITEL of Angola.

But Vimpelcom Chief Executive Boris Nemsic reportedly said that the company, with its subsidiary, Altimo, has not bid to buy any shares in the Zambian telecommunication company.

Nemsic has ruled out speculations that the company was bidding for Zambia’s fixed-line operator Zamtel, reports said.

But when contacted to comment on the reports by Xinhua on Friday, ZDA Communications Margaret Chimanse refused to say anything, but only: “No comments please.”

The Zambian government plans to sell 75 percent of shares in the embattled telecommunication company to a private equity partner and 30 companies had initially expressed interest in the company. The number has since been reduced to eight.

Earlier in the year, Zambian President Rupiah Banda described the company as “a sleeping giant” which needed a capital investment of 200 million U.S. dollars to meet its short-term liabilities.

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