EGYPT – Vodafone, a British multinational telecommunications company, has sold its 55% sharehoding in Vodafone Egypt to Saudi Telecom Company on a US$2.4 billion agreement after a series of missed deadlines to complete the deal.

STC, the kingdom’s biggest telecom operator, had struck a preliminary deal in January with the London-listed telecoms company to buy the stake as it sought growth in the Arab world’s most populous nation.

Vodafone had said in September that it remained in talks to finalise the deal in the near future despite the expiry of an initial memorandum of understanding.

STC cited coronavirus-driven logistical challenges to seek extension twices to the initial agreement, first in April and then in July.

With 44 million subscribers and a 40% market share, Vodafone Egypt is the country’s biggest mobile operator.

“We believe that the Egyptian government is committed to an optimal framework for the telecoms sector, which will enable Vodafone Egypt to deliver on the country’s vision of digitisation and financial inclusion and create a technology hub to support our growth in the African region,” Vodafone Group CEO Nick Read said in a statement.

Vodafone had said in January that selling the stake was in line with efforts to streamline its operations to focus on Europe and sub-Saharan Africa.

Vodafone didn’t provide a reason for abandoning the discussions to sell its 55% shareholding in Vodafone Egypt. The remaining shares in Vodafone Egypt are held by state-controlled Telecom Egypt.

Vodafone has been focusing its global footprint on Europe and Africa since Read took over in 2018, as part of his strategy to squeeze more out of what he deems the company’s core assets while paying down debt. The company recently sold units in New Zealand and Malta and is targeting an IPO of its mobile mast business in early 2021.

Egyptian market regulations would require Saudi Telecom to submit a mandatory tender offer for all of Vodafone Egypt, including the stake held by Telecom Egypt.

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