The Republic of Congo complained on Monday it had not been informed of Bharti Airtel’s $9 billion deal to buy Kuwaiti telco Zain’s African assets in what it said was a contravention of Zain’s licence.
Telecoms Minister Thierry Moungalla said the parties had 30 days to remedy the situation or face sanctions including fines or ultimately the withdrawal of the local licence.
“This is a clear violation of the law in our country,” Moungalla said, adding that the government “had within its legal arsenal the right to be informed and to give its agreement in principle” to such deals. A Bharti Airtel spokesman in New Delhi declined comment, as did Zain’s Congo unit.
Congo is at least the second country to object to the deal after Gabon voiced similar complaints on March 29. But that did not stop the accord being signed two days later.
Bharti is currently in the process of getting regulatory approval for the accord. Zain is the dominant mobile operator in Congo with an estimated 1.5 million subscribers.
Fines could run to one percentage point of local turnover with other sanctions being a reduction in the duration of the operating licence, a suspension or outright withdrawal of the licence.