Negotiations for Vodacom entry into Nigeria aborted

Econet Wireless Nigeria (EWN) Tuesday informed the Nigerian Federal High Court that its negotiations with Vodacom International Ltd. to take a controlling interest in the company have been aborted.

In a sworn affidavit presented to the court, Tunde Oyewole, legal adviser to EWN, advised that the negotiations on the equity investment with Vodacom International had been aborted as far back as Dec. 19, 2003. EWN is arguing that it is no longer necessary for the court to grant an injunction to EWI to stop Vodacom from buying an interest in EWN, because it has aborted all negotiations with Vodacom.

The affidavit was presented to the Nigerian High Court as supporting evidence in the case brought by Econet Wireless International (EWI) for an order of injunction. EWI has requested the injunction to restrain directors of EWN from accepting an offer from Vodacom for the acquisition of a controlling stake in the company. EWI claims that it has pre-emptive rights to any shares issued.

Responding to these developments, EWI CEO, Strive Masiyiwa, says, “The statements made to the court appear contradictory to those given in January this year when Vodacom publicly stated that it was still in the process of conducting due diligence investigations of EWN. The public statement issued by EWN early in February also stated that negotiations were still in progress.”

“Despite this latest claim by EWN we are going to proceed with the international arbitration process on the shareholders dispute until a final determination is obtained through the courts,” Masiyiwa says.

EWI is asking an arbitration panel to enforce an agreement between itself and EWN in which the latter had undertaken to sell it additional shares to increase its stake and become a controlling shareholder.

EWI first made the urgent application for an injunction in October 2003, but the matter was stalled until last week, when Justice Mustapha of the Federal High Court declared that he had jurisdiction to preside over the case and ruled that he would proceed with the hearing on Feb. 20.

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