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Orange 'considering all options' for Niger operations

Orange 'considering all options' for Niger operations

Mobile operator Orange Niger is considering options, including restructuring and partnerships, as its operations continue to be affected by regulatory pressure stemming from socio-economic and political uncertainty.

According to a document released by the Commercial Court of Niamey, Orange Niger has commenced the procedure for preventive settlement which will avert insolvency or a cessation of activity, and will permit the clearing of debts by means of an agreement with creditors which could involve paying a lessened amount over a period of time.

The preventive settlement also provides the company with a suspension of enforcement by its creditors.

Confirming the development, Orange stated that the court appointed an expert to review its situation and will support its negotiations with creditors.

"The expert will examine the situation and assist the general management of Orange-Niger in negotiations with creditors. All possible solutions are being considered, including the search for a partner capable of supporting the development of the business," the operator stated.

Industry analysts also described the latest action as a prelude to a liquidation or acquisition of Orange Niger which will seek a partner or buyer that will be presented to the government as soon as possible.

They warned that market difficulties that worsened the company's performance may make it unattractive and discouraging to potential buyers.

According to Orange Group's financial report for the year ended 31 December 2018, Orange Niger recorded depreciation of its fixed assets to €52-million in 2017 and lowered to €43-million euros in 2018.

On 29 November 2018 the General Tax Directorate of Niger issued an order to close the operator's premises in Niamey, citing an outstanding tax bill of 22-billion CFA francs (approximately US$38-million).

The premises was reopened after the operator paid an undisclosed amount.

In response the operator stated: "Orange Niger regrets the brutality of such measures, especially given the exorbitant amounts claimed, which represent nearly 50 percent of Orange Niger's turnover."

Orange is one the four telecoms companies operating in Niger. Latest figures released by the Regulatory Authority for Telecommunications and Post (RATP) showed there are 7.7 million subscribers to mobile phone services in the country out of a total population of 19 million.

The country's internet penetration rate stood at 19% at the end of 2018.

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