Chad to privatise third-largest mobile operator Sotel
DAKAR Feb 13 (Reuters) - Chad has launched the privatisation of the central African country's third-largest mobile operator Sotel, nearly four years after a failed attempt to sell a controlling stake to Libya's sovereign wealth fund.
Potential bidders have until the end of next week to express initial interest in Sotel, which is the country's only provider of fixed, Internet and mobile services, according to people familiar with the process.
The government aims to conclude the privatisation before the second half of this year.
Cellphone penetration in Chad is running just over 40 percent, compared with between 60 and 80 percent in neighbouring countries. Chad, twice the size of France, is home to 11 million people and the International Monetary Fund has cited poor telecommunications as an obstacle to economic development.
"The government intends to liberalize the telecom sector in order to mobilize all the required energy to provide consumers with quality products in a competitive and open framework," Daoussa Deby Itno, Minister of Post and New Information Technologies, said.
Chad's two other mobile operators are Airtel, a subsidiary of Indian telecoms group Bharti Airtel, and Tigo, owned by Luxembourg-listed Millicom. President Idriss Deby's government has said it will not issue any more mobile phone licences.
A deal to purchase a 60 percent stake in Sotel by the Libyan African Investment Portfolio for $90 million in 2010 was derailed by Libya's civil war. (Reporting by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Anthony Barker)
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