Following the 29 March 2016 final and irrevocable withdrawal of telecom licences of four telcos - Libya's GreenN, Lebanon's Comium -CI, UAE's Ward Telecom and Ivorian Cafe Mobile - whose situations have reportedly been the same for five years with default financial obligations to the state and other operators, the Ivory Coast government says it is considering offers of a takeover from interested companies.
According to Digital Economy and Post Minister, Bruno Nabagne Kone the country's Autorite de Regulation des Telecommunications de Cote d'Ivoire (ARTCI) is conducting an independent assessment of three offers - from Monaco Telecom, Vietnam's Viettel Group and the Libyan Post Telecommunications and Information Technology Company (LPTIC) which is the parent company of one of the affected companies, GreenN.
Of the three, Viettel is the only full-fledged telco with an updated record of a sustained cross border operation in parts of Africa. The company launched its first mobile network on the continent in Mozambique, Movitel, in 2012 followed by entry into Burundi, Cameroon and Tanzania by 2015.
Ivory Coast could be Viettel's first entry into the West African telecom market if awarded the license.
In 2012 Monaco Telecom became a technical partner in a consortium with Planor/Kome CESSE which operates through Alpha Telecom in Mali, while the death of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 has impacted heavily on the grip GreenN's has on its initial launches in African markets since 2007 - including Ivory Coast, South Sudan, Uganda and Sierra Leone.
Comium-CI made an attempt to contest ARTCI's decision and issued a statement on 1 April detailing that its withdrawn operating license remains valid until 2026; that it has been placed in receivership; and that it would pay CFA 15 billion of its debt to the government with a proposed payment plan that will run until 2018.
But this was quickly countered by ARTCI which cited, among others, an accumulated debt of more than CFA32 billion and the permanent withdrawal of the license to be a result of a long process in which Comium-CI was fully participatory.
ARTCI expects a new telco to provide an effective GSM phone service as well as fixed line, fast data and internet connections.
Should none of the bidders be successful, the French-speaking West Africa's largest economy says it can maintain the country's three vibrant telcos - Orange, MTN and Moov - to cater for its population of 25 million.
Though not mentioned as a contender so far, Nigeria's Globacom (Glo) made a US$600 million offer to takeover Comium-CI in May last year when the telco was first rumoured to be considering going into a receivership, but not much was later heard about the move after a stipulated timeline.
If the bid had succeeded, it would have been Globacom's fourth country of operation and, as the telco had informed shareholders, would have invested a little more than $1 billion in the modernization of the network's infrastructure in three years.
With this Ivorian exit, Comium, which originally had four operations in Africa, is now left with only Comium-(Gambia) standing. Comium (Sierra Leone) filed for bankruptcy last year while Comium-(Liberia) was sold for a relaunch as Novafone in 2012.