… as gov’t yet to sign agreement to fully take over
With government yet to finalise talks with AirtelTigo on the company’s sale, the B&FT has gathered that there is growing anxiety among the staff of AirtelTigo as the parent companies, Bharti Airtel and Milicom Ghana, have cut-back significantly on investments which could have kept operations at the telco running smoothly.
The government of Ghana confirmed in October last year that it was in advanced discussions with Airtel and Tigo for the transfer of AirtelTigo shares to the government of Ghana – along with all customers, assets and agreed liabilities.
But five months on, the agreement is yet to be signed and staff are worried about their fate – as the fortunes and goodwill of the company are retrogressing due to the lack of investment. This is due to the fact that the major shareholders are no longer interested in running the company.
Sources at the Ministry of Communication and Digitalisation told this paper that one of the reasons the agreement is yet to be signed is so government can settle on what it wants to do with the company. Its options include offloading the shares to a new entity or merging with another company.
The debt status of the company is another issue yet to be settled between the company and government. For advertisement and other media-buying slots alone, the company is said to be in debt to the tune of over GH¢5million. Currently, the company is not running any media campaign. There are other debts on the balance sheet for which finality is yet to be reached. Amid these uncertainties, the company’s 2021 budget is hanging.
The statement from the Ministry of Communication in October last year announcing government’s interest in AirtelTigo said: “The transaction will be concluded by the execution of definitive agreements shortly.
“The government of Ghana through this transaction will temporarily operate this national asset in the best interests of the nation; and ensure protection for the interests of all employees, customers and stakeholders, and a continuation of the digital transformation in Ghana.
“Given the multiplier impact the telecommunications sector has on the economy and various related industries, the government of Ghana has entered into this agreement to ensure that thousands of Ghanaian jobs are safeguarded. It is of critical importance that the telecommunications sector remains healthy, dynamic, vibrant and, most importantly, competitive.”
The staff say the statement from the ministry gave them confidence, but the delay in finalising the agreement is dashing their hopes even though their salaries are paid on time.
Meanwhile, the current CEO Murthy Chaganthi’s contract has been extended to June 2021, and it is expected that he will leave at the end of his extension for an interim management team headed by former deputy communications minister, George Andah, to take over. Mr. Andah has however denied knowledge of the development when asked during an interview with this paper.