Expresso to start operations as Celltell in December

September 7, 2017
Source: thebftonline.com l Ghana
Expresso to start operations as Celltell in December

…set to inject US$300 million

Expresso Telecom is expected to restart full operations as Celltel by December, after the resolution of a 20-year ownership tussle.

Kludjeson International Limited, the original owner of the company, has taken over the operations of the pioneering telecom company.

Two decades of ownership struggle has adversely affected the company’s fortunes, evident in the continuous decline in its subscriber base over the years.

Its total voice subscribers have decreased from its record high of 394,051 in 2008 to 40,111 as at the end of March 2017 and 23,264 as at the end of April 2017 with a market share of 0.06%.

Kludjeson International Limited, however, says it has advanced moves to put the company back on a strong footing and ensure it regains its enviable position in the industry.

Officials have revealed plans are far advanced to invest about US$300 million to turn around the company’s fortunes.

New strategic direction

Kludjeson International Limited says it has secured partnership deals with several reputable multinational technology firms that should reposition the company as a huge force to reckon with in the telecoms’ space.

The Executive Chairman, Kludjeson International Limited, Dr. Prince Kofi Kludjeson, says the company is all set to restart full operations.

“The new Celltel is going to be the best company in Ghana because we are going to provide a Wi-Fi strategy. We are moving to all the districts call it ‘One-village One-WiFi’. The President has a beautiful vision. One district, one factory yet there is no technology to drive those companies. So as a Ghanaian company are going to provide that.

Agreements have been signed and we have US$250million budget to roll out the new strategy and it’s all going very well. We have Cisco leading, we have Google, we have Starlite from India for solutions. There is also Facebook monetizing, as well as Apple, Foscam. We’ll create jobs, we’ll create wealth,” Dr. Kludjeson noted.

He added that: “A lot of people have contacted me. It’s all already underway with engineers are in Ghana working. We’ve also met the NCA. They assisted us in the design. We take them there once they come to approve the process of technology. NCA is very supportive.”

Kludjeson International meets staff

The original owners of the company met the concerned workers of the company in the fourth week of August. The Leader of the concerned staff, Joseph Kojo Nkansah, said they are happy with the outcome.

“They assured us of our salaries. So for us the concerned workers, all we are interested in is for the company to run and have our salaries paid. We’ve so far found out many things but we are surprised that the people leading us pretended not to know that.”

“If I were the General Manager, I will resign knowing that I am not working for anyone. Otherwise I will go behind the scenes and find who I am supposed to be working for and we have tried to push them but,us Ghanaians as we are, they say they don’t know and we leave it there. So we are hopeful that in the coming days, the group that says it owns the company will come in and start the operations” he said.

According to Mr. Nkansah, plans by the original owners to pay their outstanding salary and social security contribution arrears couldn’t have come at a better time.

“For us, it is exciting news. If someone is saying he is the owner and is giving us hope, then we should be happy. As employees we are only interested in who the owner is now because, we are our right are being abused.  The company must run and so those who think are owners can go to the boardroom and fight. But for us employees, we are not interested in supporting anyone.

We are however surprised that no one has come out to challenge Dr. Kludjeson who says he is the owner. But if anyone is going to challenge him, we don’t care. What we care about is that the company must run and our salaries paid - we’ll take it, laugh to the bank and take care of our families and build our careers,” he added.

CWU welcomes takeover

The Communication Workers Union, CWU has also given its blessings to the takeover by Kludjeson International Limited.  Deputy General Secretary of the CWU, Joseph Hortor says they are ready to work with Kludjeson International Ltd. in meeting the needs of the workers and in turning the company’s fortunes around.

“Since 2013 they were not paying our members and once a while they will just give them something small. Sometimes they can pay them a quarter of their monthly salary. That was the problem so we started looking for who own the company and up till today we’ve not found anybody until Mr. Kludjeson came into the picture.

If they have cleared all issues surrounding who owns the company and even coming out to say it , why not? Because we are workers and we don’t own shares but we are social partners to whoever owns it and so we’ll welcome him. Our issue is that we have a lot of problems that he needs to tackle. We’ll like to engage him because we are the mother union” Mr. Hortor said.

Sudatel not owners of Expresso Telecom

National Communications Authority, NCA has no record of Sudan Telecom, otherwise known as Sudatel, as the owners of the Expresso Telecom.

The NCA told an Accra-based  FM that: “The authority does not have any document on the company’s ownership change to Sudan Telecom or Expresso.”

Sudatel reportedly took over Expresso in July 2008 but noted in its 2016 Financial Report  that it has sold all of its shares in the company to an unnamed buyer.

Celltel-Hutchison deal too inconclusive?

Celltel Limited, a wholly-owned Ghanaian firm with Kludjeson International Limited as the sole and original shareholder, has been the bone of contention. It is said to have entered into a shareholder agreement in 1998 for Hutchison to acquire 80% stake and retain the remaining 20%.

But the NCA revealed that it has no documents on the transfer of ownership between Celltel and Hutchinson Telecoms – the deal supposed to have triggered this whole controversy over the company’s ownership since the early 2000’s.

This has raised questions as to whether it lends credence to suggestions that the deal was perhaps never consummated with the relevant documentation after all.

The introduction of Certwell in the deal

Hutchison through Certwell Limited is said to have acquired 80% shares in the original company Celltel, whilst the KIudjeson International Limited retained 20% shares. This, according to the Registrar of Companies was captured in that year’s filed Annual Return.

There are however suggestions this may not be enough proof as only two relevant legal documents are decisive here: the amended company regulations -  reflecting the share-transfer (with signatories of both parties) and the “Deed of Transfer” to confirm the deal.

The NCA however confirmed it licensed Kasapa Telecom Limited to undertake mobile operations in Ghana on December 2, 2004. This was after the change in the company’s name from Celltel to Kasapa in 2003 according to documents the investigator secured from the Registrar General’s Department. A new Certificate of Incorporation was issued to reflect this change even though it borne the company’s original registration number of 48,782 among other details.

The company regulations--the document that governs any firm--however remained in the name of Kludjeson International Ltd as the sole Shareholder with Prince Kofi Kludjeson and Prince Kwame Kludjeson as the Directors. This has also raised another question of whether it was only a name change rather than an acquisition.

Kasapa was however reverted to the company’s original name Celltel in September 2004 per the documents from Registrar General’s Department. This has also led to suggestions by some that all this could somewhat justify the decision by the original owners of the company, Kludjeson International Limited to now takeover the company.

Expresso only a brand name

Documents from the Registrar General Department have confirmed, there is no telecom company in Ghana called Expresso Telecom, Expresso Ghana or even Expresso Limited.

Despite the popularity of Expresso as the company’s name, investigations at the Registrar General’s Department have revealed Expresso is only a brand name rather than its official identity. 

According to the Registrar of Companies, since 2003, the name of the company on official record has rather been Kasapa Telecom Limited.