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NetOne struggles to attract investor

NetOne struggles to attract investor

Zimbabwe's embattled state-owned mobile company NetOne has failed to attract an investor to take over majority shareholding (a 74% stake).

Finance minister Mthuli Ncube had initially set September 2019 as the deadline for selling off the stake, but this was moved to December.

Despite an aggressive push by the government to woo potential investors, including the likes of MTN, there has been no progress.

However, Ncube remains optimistic and recently hosted a public meeting where he told attendees that both NetOne and TelOne will soon unlock their combined value of US$350-million.

While Ncube refused to shed more light on a possible investor, speculation surfaced that Zimbabwe's government was looking to approach South African telecommunications services provider Telkom.

NetOne has bit hit by a series of resignations. Board chairperson James Mutizwa resigned, followed by the audit committee chairperson, Sibonile Dhliwayo and human resources executive Keumetsi Mpandawana.

More recently, NetOne chief executive Lazarus Muchenje was suspended, along with chief finance officer, Sibusiso Ndlovu.

The suspension and resignations of three other board members took place as the NetOne Board instituted multiple separate audits of top executives.

This is the second time that Muchenje has been suspended during his tenure at NetOne.

In 2018, he was suspended after suing the then ICT Minister, Supa Mandiwanzira, six NetOne board members, nine NetOne executives and the Office of the President and Cabinet for allegedly flouting corporate governance rules by interfering in the running of the company.

Muchenje was reinstated in February 2019.

Independent ICT expert and former NetOne chief executive officer Reward Kangai said there were "cartels and cabals" within Zimbabwe's ICT sector.

According to Kangai, NetOne's problems have been there for some time.

"The squabbles at NetOne have their origins from former ICT Minister (mid-Dec 2014 to Sept 2018). He is the cause of all the problems bedevilling NetOne for the past five years."

According to the regulator's latest report, NetOne recorded an 11% increase in the number of active subscribers, from 2.7 million in Q2 to 3 million in Q3.

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