Econet International Limited is buying back a 53% stake in Mascom Wireless, Botswana’s largest mobile operator, for an estimated $300 million.
Strive Masiyiwa founded Mascom in 1998, before he obtained a license to launch Econet Wireless after a protracted court battle with Zimbabwean government authorities. Mascom became his first network operator and was derived from his name: Masiyiwa Communications, of which he later sold a controlling stake in the business to Portugal Telecom and subsequently MTN, while Econet remained a minority shareholder.
According to MTN, it is selling its stake in Mascom as it is withdrawing from the Botswana market and seeking to reduce the number of countries it operates in, and also in line with its drive to raise at least $1.1 Billion from asset sales to strengthen its balance sheet. Which seems reasonable seeing as of the 22 African countries MTN operates in and others beyond Africa, 84% of its earnings come from just South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Iran and Uganda.
At 1.7 million subscribers, Mascom has more than 50% of the market share in Botswana. Masiyiwa’s Liquid Telecom also entered the market about a year ago through a partnership with the Botswana Power Company. Mascom could become one of the biggest customers for Liquid Telecom Botswana.