Uganda seizes Libya shares in UTL

http://www.newvision.co.ug/D/8/12/750546
Tuesday, 29th March, 2011
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By David Mugabe

THE Government has seized control of Libya’s majority stake in uganda telecom (utl) with immediate effect.

Aggrey Awori, the Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) minister, said the Government was exercising its oversight role and also complying with UN sanctions against Libyan assets.

“We have to monitor all the transactions in conformity with the rules and now they cannot make certain decisions without our knowledge,” said Awori.

The Libyan government owns 69% of utl under its investment arm, Libya Africa Investment Portfolio.

utl has become the second entity in which Libya has a direct stake to fall under government control. Bank of Uganda last week relieved the Libyan Foreign Bank of its shareholding in Tropical Bank. The Libyan Foreign Bank owned 99.7% of Tropical Bank’s portfolio.

Awori said employees and Ugandans should not worry because the Government would normalise operations.

“The situation will be stabilised and all uncertainties will be eliminated within a week,” said Awori.

utl has about 1.75 million subscribers.

Awori also said the Government was planning a major monitoring of the telecom sector to bring the recent telecom bickering under control.

“The way events have been unfolding is “eyes on, hands off “but now we want to have hands on,” said Awori. MTN recently threatened to switch off all calls to utl over claims of an unpaid sh20b debt.

In freezing the Libyan Foreign Bank assets, Prof. Tumusiime Mutebile, the central bank governor, said all management appointees by the Libyan Foreign Bank were immediately relieved of their duties and a new management was appointed.

But Awori yesterday said he needed 48 hours to confirm whether there would be changes in utl management.

However, Donald Nyakairu, utl’s chief legal and corporate affairs officer, said they had not yet received the information and operations were going on normally.

“Probably they are thinking about it (the take-over), but nothing has changed. They have not approached us,” said Nyakairu.

Uganda Communications Commission boss Godfrey Mutabazi also said he had not been told about the new development.

In taking hold of both utl and Tropical Bank, the Government would be seen to ensure that both entities are operationally independent of Libyan influence, thereby safeguarding the local clientele.

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