Ethiopia postpones sale of stake in Ethio Telecom

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A woman walks past an Ethio Telecom office in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, File. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

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ADDIS ABABA, March 18 (Reuters) - Ethiopia said on Friday it had decided to postpone the planned partial privatisation of state-owned telecoms firm Ethio Telecom because of the prevailing economic environment domestically and globally.

The government had launched a tendering process in June for a proposed sale of a 40% stake in the state-owned carrier to private investors, part of the government's broader plan to open up the economy. read more

"Given the recent developments and fast-moving macroeconomic changes, both globally and from a country perspective, the government of Ethiopia has chosen to postpone the privatisation process," the finance ministry said in a statement.

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"The Government believes that taking time to accommodate the improved macroeconomic situation as well as continually improving the financial performance of Ethio Telecom will result in better value for all the parties involved."

The ministry said it was comitted to following through with the privatisation and would at a later date get in touch with those who had expressed interest in its Request for Proposals.

Ethio Telecom posted a 6.7% rise in revenues to 28 billion birr ($550.09 million) in its half year to Dec. 31, with parts of its network crippled by military conflict in the north of the country.

In December, the industry regulator Ethiopian Communication Authority (ECA, said it had also suspended a tender process for a second telecommunications licence, which it said it would relaunch in the "near future".

The Horn of Africa country of roughly 110 million people sold only one of two full-service licences on offer in May.

The winner, a consortium led by Kenya's Safaricom (SCOM.NR), Vodafone (VOD.L), and Japan's Sumitomo (8053.T), is in the process of setting up its network ahead of a planned commercial launch next month.

($1 = 50.9011 birr)

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Writing by Elias Biryabarema and George Obulutsa; Editing by Frances Kerry

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