Talks have started between the Tanzanian government and India's Bharti Airtel over the ownership of Airtel Tanzania.
The Tanzanian government has initiated a move to repossess Airtel Tanzania at the directive of President John Magufuli over claims that there were irregularities in switching the shares of Tanzania Telecommunication Company Limited (TTCL) in 2001 when the company was operating as Celtel Tanzania.
An official statement issued this week on behalf of the President stated that Bharti Airtel requested a meeting following a report submitted by a team established in 2017 formed by Magufuli to probe the ownership of Airtel Tanzania.
Details of the report have so far not been made public and Bharti Airtel not commented on the matter.
"The two sides meet following a request from Bharti Airtel. They also intend to improve the telecommunications sector," according to the statement.
President Magufuli claims that Airtel Tanzania is fully owned by state-owned telecommunications firm TTCL and therefore not in private hands.
According to available information, during the privatisation of TTCL, Celtel International was in partnership with Detecon of German and the two companies invested an initial US$60 million in TTCL in 2001 for a 35% stake.
In 2005, Celtel Tanzania and TTCL were legally separated, allowing each company to administer its own financial and business operations.
This new agreement did not change the shareholding structure of TTLC. The Tanzanian government still held 65% shares, while Celtel still held the remaining 35% shares.
Later the Tanzanian government decided to sell 25% TTLC shares to Celtel for US$28 million.
Celtel International now owns 60% shares while the Tanzanian government, through TTCL, owns 40% share in Celtel Tanzania.
However, Magufuli has accused some government officials of changing and selling shares at 'throw away' prices at the expense of national interest.
Recently, lawmakers in Tanzania passed a new law that resulted in the privatised TTCL revert to status as a public-owned corporation.