Cameroon approves deal giving Actis majority stake in SONEL

YAOUNDE Fri May 23, 2014 1:28pm EDT

YAOUNDE (Reuters) - Cameroon's government has given emerging markets private equity firm Actis the green light to take a 56 percent stake in the Central African nation's power utility SONEL, officials said on Friday.

The deal, which gives Actis a majority stake in SONEL and two independent power plants, was signed by Cameroon's Energy Minister Basile Atangana Kouna.

Actis acquired the stake from AES (AES.N) in November in a $220 million deal that required government approval.

"This is a new phase to improve energy development in Cameroon," Atangana Kouna said during the signing ceremony in the capital.

David Grylls, Actis's head of energy distribution for Africa, said the company planned to invest significantly to improve SONEL's distribution network.

Actis said SONEL currently generates about 933 MW of electricity, with 800,000 connections for Cameroon's population of nearly 22 million. The country has vast hydroelectric potential but still suffers from frequent power blackouts.

The firm has also owned Umeme UMEME.UG, Uganda's national grid, since 2005.

(Reporting by Tansa Musa; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Joe Bavier and David Goodman)