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BPOPF hikes stake to 73 % in Mascom

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  • BPOPF to buy extra 33 percent shares
  • Blocks Masiyiwa’s planned acquisition
  • Invokes ‘forced sale’ to get more shares
  • Plans listing Mascom on BSE in 24 months

KEABETSWE NEWEL

Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF) has moved to buy an additional 33 percent stake in telecommunications firm, Mascom Wireless, in a bid to become the controlling shareholder, closing out Strive Masiyiwa of Econet Wireless.

The ‘check-mate’ move by Africa’s third largest pension fund by value is premised on the fact that Mascom is a Botswana company which the Fund invested heavily in before its profitability skyrocketed. As such, the return on investment should benefit the pensioners and Batswana in general, according to BPOPF Principal Officer, Boitumelo Molefe. Masiyiwa had made a deal with South African based Mascom shareholder, MTN for the former, through his company Econet Wireless to acquire 53 percent shares indirectly held by MTN in Mascom.

With its already existing 7 percent, Econet would become a controlling shareholder at 60 percent. BPOPF initially halted the sale under the argument that it was not allowed to exercise its pre-emptive rights to buy the shares as a significant shareholder. The argument according to Molefe did not hold water. “We have now as per our agreement invoked what we call a ‘forced sale’ in which we will be forcing MTN to sell us 33 percent from the shares held in DECI Investment,” she said.

BPOPF owns a 40 percent stake in Mascom Wireless, while MTN has a 53 percent controlling stake. The remaining 7 percent is held by Econet Joint Venture (Based in Mauritius), which is in partnership with Kagiso Mmusi, a local entrepreneur. These shares however are not directly held, they are owned through an investment vehicle called DECI Investments
By buying the additional 33 percent, BPOPF will hike its stake to 73 percent, making it the ultimate controller of Mascom. According to Molefe, BPOPF has invested heavily in Mascom. In 2008, when Mascom was in dire need of cash, she said BPOPF injected money into Mascom, which was then not as profitable.

“Now that it is a cash cow, everybody wants it. It cannot work like that. After buying the 33 percent, we will in 24 months list Mascom shares on the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) to allow Batswana to benefit and own Mascom,” she said.

Before the deal was concluded, Masiyiwa announced to the market that he would list Mascom in 6 months. Masiyiwa was hosted by President Mokgweetsi Masisi last month.

The Botswana Gazette can reveal that Masiyiwa’s company has sought a meeting with the BPOPF board of directors in a quest to plead with them to allow Econet to buy the 53 percent Mascom shares. The meeting could be held this week.

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