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Nigeria looking to sale of state telephone company
Mar 19, 2003

Nitel failed last year to come on an agreement of $1.32bn for the sale of 51 per cent of the company to a consortium including a subsidiary of Portugal Telecom - a deal that was thought to be Africa's biggest privatization. Previously hostility from management and unions at Nitel, had conducted to another losing bid of $1.31bn from a consortium including Korea Telecom and Telia of Sweden.

The government said it had received some interest from potential foreign buyers of a majority stake in the company, although bureau officials say, privately, that they think this time it will be hard to tempt big telecoms operators struggling with huge debt. A Nitel privatisation would be likely to rank among Africa's largest, bearing comparison with the planned sale of 25 per cent of Telkom, the South African telecoms company, for up to R5.7bn ($691m).

Nigeria, a country with 120m people or one-sixth of Africa's population, has one of the least developed fixed-line telephone networks in the world - Nitel says it has about 800,000 lines but observers estimate hundreds of thousands of these are not working.

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