Orange says may take on partners for Kenya, Uganda businesses

NAIROBI, March 17 Mon Mar 17, 2014 10:10am EDT

NAIROBI, March 17 (Reuters) - French mobile operator Orange may consider bringing in new partners to revitalise its Ugandan and Kenyan businesses, the company said.

The firm, formerly known as France Telecom, has been reviewing operations in both countries, where its units have struggled against more established competitors. It entered Kenya in 2008 and launched its Ugandan operations in 2009.

"One option would be to find new partners in these countries to ensure that the necessary financial and operating resources are available to maintain investment and support the continued development of operations," Orange said in a statement.

Orange is the fourth biggest operator in Kenya, with 2.21 million subscribers or a 7.1 percent market share. Its subscriber and market share data in Uganda was not immediately available. The Kenyan government owns a 30 percent stake in the Orange operation.

The biggest Kenyan operators in Kenya are Safaricom , which is 40 percent owned by Britain's Vodafone , and Airtel, a unit of India's Bharti Airtel.

Orange Kenya declined to comment on the review. Both Safaricom and Airtel Kenya have agreed to acquire the assets of the third operator, Essar Telecom's Yu, which is exiting the sector, illustrating the tough market conditions.

In Uganda, Orange competes with five other operators in a market where the leading providers are MTN Uganda, owned by South Africa's MTN, and another Airtel unit.

Orange said in the statement it remained committed to Africa and the Middle East. (Reporting by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Edmund Blair and David Evans)