Zimbabwe Billionaire to list Botswana’s largest telco on Gaborone bourse

Zimbabwean billionaire Strive Masiyiwa plans to list part of Mascom, his Botswana telecoms operator, by October this year, he said on Tuesday, explaining that it was what he had always wanted for the company he founded in 1998, but couldn’t actualize in recent times due to his shareholding, which had dropped to 7 percent.

But Masiyiwa could well achieve his goal of taking Mascom public when he completes a deal with South Africa’s MTN Group, through his holding company Econet. The $300 million deal will see his stake in Mascom rise to 60 percent.

MTN announced in March that it would sell its 53 percent share in Mascom after failing to gain management or branding control, which made it impossible for Africa’s largest telco to implement its strategy in Botswana. But Masiyiwa’s deal with MTN faces resistance from the Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF), the country’s largest pension fund, which holds 40 percent stake in the company and expected MTN to also offer its 53 percent stake up for sale to it. But Masiyiwa is confident of the deal with MTN, with his offer valuing Mascom at more than $600 million.

“I’m paying them $300 million, which means they have done very well, as they originally paid less than $70 million,” Masiyiwa said, ahead of a town hall youth meeting together with Botswana president Mokgweetsi Masisi in Gaborone on Tuesday. He recalled how he had promised to take Mascom public when he started the company more than two decades ago.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

“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).”