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MTN still strategic to BICS’ commercial interests following US$121-million transaction

Africa , 16 Feb 2021

International communications enabler Belgacom International Carrier Services SA (BICS) has confirmed the exit of MTN Group as one of its owners, but added that the mobile operator would remain an important commercial partner.

In early February 2021, BICS announced that Belgian telecommunications firm Proximus Group had become the sole owner of BICS after it acquired stakes owned by MTN and Swisscom.

MTN owned a 20% stake in BICS and raised US$121-million from the sale. Proximus also acquired Swisscom’s stake in the venture and both transactions totalled €569-million.

Guillaume Boutin, CEO of Proximus Group, said his company now has full control of BICS’ assets and expressed confidence in his firm’s ability to take BICS to the next level.

“This agreement allows us to retain full control of BICS assets. I am confident that we can embark on its next phase of growth and play a key role in consolidating a fragmented market, while continuing to invest in key growth areas,” said Boutin.

BICS added the company will be able to accelerate its growth plans through a combination of organic investments in key domains, a strict focus on cash flow generation within its core services, and capturing in-market consolidation opportunities.

“MTN and Swisscom will remain important commercial partners of BICS,” BICS said in a statement.

There is an existing traffic management arrangement between BICS and MTN.

In February 2019, MTN and BICS extended their long-term commercial partnership, according to which MTN will progressively insource the transport and management of its traffic within the MEA region, while BICS will remain MTN’s preferred provider for international voice and messaging services to- and from the rest of the world.

But in March 2019, the same month that the extension of the partnership officially commenced, MTN initiated its Asset Realisation Program (ARP) with the aim of selling non-essential assets, reducing its debt and its risks.

The mandate for ARP is to simplify the portfolio and improve returns. This move has led MTN to withdraw from the shareholding of several African companies, including e-commerce giant Jumia from which MTN raised R2.3-billion after selling its stake in the company.

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