Business News of 2014-02-12

Jospong-Expresso deal off

ADOMBUSINESS can confirm that the Jospong Group of Companies (JGC) and Expresso Telecoms Ghana deal is off.
The two closed discussions on the sale of Expresso on Friday January 31, 2014, two clear days after ADOMBUSINESS revealed that negotiations had been ongoing between Jospong and Sudatel about the sale of Expresso, the only CDMA operator in the country.
In a letter exclusively addressed to ADOMBUSINESS, the Management of Expresso said “…we acknowledge that we have had discussions with the Jospong Group of Companies regarding the sale of Expresso. Our discussions with Jospong, however, came to a close on 31st January, 2014.”
The Managing Director of Expresso Ghana, El Amir Ahmed El Amir later told ADOMBUSINESS Jospong lost interest in the deal and pulled out.
He explained that Jospong wrote to Expresso in April 2013 asking to buy Expresso.
According to El Amir, there were other interested buyers but “Jospong asked for exclusive negotiations between April 2013 and December 2013, but we closed the discussion on January 31, 2014 and I can say we do not have any more commitments toward each other.”
The Expresso MD said the other potential buyers have also not shown interest in the company again since.
A highly-placed and impeccable source at Jospong confirmed to ADOMBUSINESS that the company had discussions with Expresso for months with an interest to buy the telco, but it lost interest when the issue of conflict of interest came up.
The conflict of interest was with regards to Subah Infosolutions Limited, which is a member of the Jospong Group and has been appointed by the Ghana Revenue Authority to audit telcos. So Jospong would have been conflicting its interest running a telco and auditing its competitors.
According to the Jospong source “we had wanted to inject some local content into the telecom industry to ensure that some of the revenue from that sector stayed in the country.”
He also confirmed that Jospong had written to Expresso and asked for exclusive negotiations because “we did not want them to be talking to other potential buyers until we finished our discussions with them.”
Meanwhile, Expresso Ghana is losing customers consistently and the company still has interconnect debts to settle with other telcos and are unable to pay for handsets they requested from one handset dealer.
The Jospong source said “we are fully aware of the poor performance of the company and its indebtedness but we are risk takers and we were ready to take the risk to secure local content in the telecoms industry.”
Legal battles
Meanwhile, the Founder of Celltel/Kasapa (now Expresso), Kludjeson International (KI), is still claiming to be the sole proprietor of the company.
Kludjeson International Boss, Prince Kofi Kludjeson is currently in court with the National Communications Authority (NCA) and others, claiming ownership of Expresso’s 028 prefix and the network itself.
Kofi Kludjeson told ADOMBUSINESS he has registration documents showing he is the owner of the Expresso network, under the name of Kasapa Telecoms Limited (KTL), so he saw Expresso as a “fraud.”
He hinted that very soon he would start operating a telco under the brand name Celltel, with prefix 028, which by law still belongs to his company.
Meanwhile, critics of KI say the company has no spectrum and no license from the NCA to run a telco, so it would be interesting to see how he does that.
The NCA declined to comment because “we are in court over the same issue so until the court case is determined we can’t be speaking about the matter.
Expresso presence in Africa
Expresso is an African telecommunications services company. It provides telecommunication services in five African markets: Mauritania, Senegal, Guinea, Ghana and Nigeria. The company is a key player in the implementation of the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine cable. Sudatel owns 75% of the total Expresso shares.
Expresso started Chinguitel in Mauritania in 2006. Sudatel owns 68% shares in Chinguitel. By August 2007, Chinguitel established a CDMA network, providing full coverage across that country.
In November 2007, Expresso Senegal became Expresso’s second ‘green field’ operation. Sudatel’s share is Expresso Sengal is 75%.
In July 2008, Expresso Telecom acquired 100% of Ghana’s Kasapa Telecom Company. Sudatel share in this company is 75%, which it is now selling to Jospong.
In December 2008, Expresso Telecom acquired 70% of Nigeria’s Intercellular but has since sold it off to another operator.
Expresso also acquired 100% ownership of Intercel Guinea SA, which started operations in 2012.