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UPDATE 1-Three suitors remaining in race to buy Zambia's Zamtel

*India’s Bharat Sanchar Nigam withdraws

*ZDA board to decide which firms to negotiate with

(Adds comments, details)

LUSAKA, Mar 12 (Reuters) - Three companies have submitted binding bids to buy a majority stake in Zambia’s fixed-line phone operator Zamtel, the Zambia Development Agency (ZDA) said on Friday.

India’s Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd [BSNL.UL], withdrew after conducting due diligence, leaving Angola’s Unitel, Libya’s LAP Green Networks and Russia ‘s Altimo in the race for a slice of up to 75 percent in Zamtel. Altimo is the telecoms arm of Russian investment company Alfa Group.

“These bids will be subjected to an evaluation by the ZDA and after the evaluation they will be presented to the ZDA board who are going to make a decision as to which ones to shortlist for negotiations,” ZDA privatization manager, Henry Sakala said.

Sakala said the board would also decide on how many companies to shortlist for negotiations.

He added the ZDA board would appoint an independent team to undertake the negotiations.

The Zamtel sale has been criticised by opposition politicians and trade unions, who say Zambians should hold a bigger stake in the company. Zamtel’s revenue for the year to end-December was $100 million.

It is Zambia’s only licensed fixed-line provider of voice and data communications , and has performed poorly despite its monopoly rights.

Reporting by Chris Mfula

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