Mali Bids for Maroc Telecom Unit IPO Despite Parent's Doubts

(Bloomberg) -- Mali wants to sell a portion of its holding in Maroc Telecom’s local unit in an initial public offering even as the parent remains reluctant to do a listing, according to Finance and Economy Minister Boubou Cisse.

The nation wants to sell little less than half its 39 percent stake in Societe des Telecommunications du Mali, which is also known as Sotelma, and list the shares on West Africa’s regional exchange in Ivory Coast, Cisse said in an interview in the capital, Bamako. The proceeds will be used for capital investments and would provide cheaper finance than bank loans, said Cisse.

Mali wants to finalize the share sale by April, but the process may be delayed if Maroc Telecom remains “resistant” to such a step, Cisse said. Maroc Telecom, which is based in Rabat and has 56 million subscribers in 10 countries including Mali, has a 51 percent holding in Sotelma.

“Listing on the stock market goes with transparency requirements, which means that the company’s financial statements will be public,” Cisse said. “Maroc Telecom is a bit uneasy about it because its main competitor doesn’t have the same obligations, but the government is committed to go ahead,” he said, referring to operations of Orange SA.

While Orange Mali is a unit of Abidjan-listed Sonatel, the wireless group does not publish profit numbers for its individual subsidiaries. It does publish subscriber numbers and revenue figures for every unit and combined profit data.

Military Coup

Calls to the communications office of Maroc Telecom remained unanswered. Salma Bennani, head of investor relations, declined to comment. Requests for comment by phone and email to the office of Sotelma’s general director, Abdelaziz Biddine, remained unanswered.

Plans for the listing of Sotelma come almost six years after preparations for an initial share sale were scuttled by a military coup in the West African nation. If the IPO goes ahead, Sotelma will join Bank of Africa as the only Mali-based companies on the Bourse Regionale des Valeurs Mobilieres in Abidjan, where the Ivorian unit of Ecobank Transnational is due to become the bourse’s 45th listing on Tuesday.

“We’ve restarted the process, we’ve updated the figures and I hope we’ll be able to go through with it this time,” said Cisse.

Sotelma’s listing “would be a very big operation” for the regional exchange, Chief Executive Officer Edoh Kossi Amenounve said by phone. The company will be the bourse’s third-biggest listing of a telecommunications company after Senegal’s Sonatel and Burkina Faso’s Onatel, he said.

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