Strive Masiyiwa says he plans sell shares in Mascom to the public once he completes the US$300 million purchase of MTN’s stake in Botswana’s largest mobile operator.
MTN announced in March that it would sell its 53% share in Mascom after failing to gain management or branding control. If he completes the deal, Masiyiwa would control 60% of Mascom, although he would first need to overcome resistance from 40% shareholder Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF), the country’s largest pension fund.
“After a few months of negotiating, we reached a deal. I’m paying them $300m, which means they have done very well, as they originally paid less than $70m,” Masiyiwa said, ahead of a town hall youth meeting together with Botswana president Mokgweetsi Masisi in Gaborone on Tuesday.
Mascom was Masiyiwa’s first mobile operation when it launched a service in 1998, months ahead of the launch of Econet. Masiyiwa says he had, in that original bid for a Botswana licence, pledged to take Mascom public.
“During our original bid, I told the government of Botswana that my vision was to take the company public once it was profitable. I wanted to achieve something which I did in Zimbabwe, and sell shares to thousands of ordinary people. For the last 21 years I have been unable to fulfil this promise because my company did not control enough shares. Now I can keep that promise.”
He added: “As soon as we complete the acquisition of the MTN shares, I have already instructed our management to begin a sale process to ordinary Botswana citizens. In what I hope will be the biggest public listing ever undertaken in Botswana, I want to sell shares to anyone who can raise about 100 Pula (about $10).”
The Masiyiwa-MTN deal is facing resistance from officials inside BPOPF, who want the fund to gain control of the company instead. The fund argues that MTN did not make an offer to BPOPF to acquire the 53% stake.
Masiyiwa is however hoping to convince the pension fund to sell part of its shares – reportedly 10% of its stake – to workers.
“It is actually possible to set up a scheme in which the civil servants buy shares, using deductions on their salaries. They can also restrict trading of such shares amongst themselves,” Masiyiwa posted on Facebook.
Mascom holds an over 50% share of the Botswana mobile phone market with over 1.7 million subscriptions. A Mascom listing would be a big boost for the Botswana Stock Exchange, which currently has 36 counters.