SEACOM says sales healthy ahead of cable landing

* Presales hits about half of $700 million investment

* Laying of cable on schedule, eyes west Africa in 2010

* Demand in Mozambique, Tanzania exceeds expectations

NAIROBI, March 23 (Reuters) - Mauritius-registered private equity venture SEACOM has signed up business worth about half its $700 million investment in an undersea telecommunications cable linking African countries with the rest of the world, its CEO said on Monday.

Brian Herlihy said the fibre-optic cable that will connect Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and other countries along the east and southern coast of Africa with India, Europe and the Middle East, is on course for completion and testing in June.

“We have signed a healthy amount of presales, we are about there,” he told reporters when asked if they had reached half of its planned investment.

He said demand for bandwidth in Tanzania and Mozambique was high, contrary to expectations that it would be low compared with Kenya or South Africa.

Herlihy said SEACOM shareholders are actively pursuing opportunities in the west African market and were looking to install a cable in mid to late 2010.

“Ultimately the best target we could have is a ring around Africa, not only from an economic development perspective, but also from a catalyst for developing African (broadcast) content.”

Herlihy said the increased bandwidth capacity will make telemedicine a reality, enhance learning through use of visual aids and shift broadcasting into the digital era.

Kenya’s government has been laying a terrestrial network of cables in readiness for the completion of the undersea cable. (Editing by David Cowell)