Ethiopia launches tender process to sell 40% stake in Ethio Telecom

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FILE PHOTO: A customer holds a 3G prepaid sim card after buying the service from an Ethio-Telecom shop in Addis Ababa

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Ethiopia on Monday launched a tendering process for the proposed sell-off of a 40% stake in state-owned carrier Ethio Telecom to private investors, part of the government's broader plan to open up the Horn of Africa country's economy.

Interested investors can now submit so called expressions of interest (EOI), the first of a series of stages that will lead to picking of a successful bidder, Zinabu Yirga, Deputy Director of Public Enterprises Holding and Administration Agency told a press conference in the capital Addis Ababa.

"The government want(s) state-owned enterprises to be competitive and productive," Zinabu said, explaining the authorities' motivation for selling a part of Ethio Telecom to private operators.

As part of the broader opening up of the sector, Ethiopia is also moving to license private operators to compete with Ethio Telecom.

Last month authorities handed out the first private operator licence to a consortium led by Kenya's Safaricom, Vodafone, and Japan's Sumitomo.

The telecoms business in Ethiopia, a country with a population of more than 100 million people and one of the region's biggest economies, is considered lucrative and is expected to draw significant investor interest.

Brook Taye, senior advisor at the finance ministry said the 40% would be sold as a single stake to a single investor.

(Writing by Elias Biryabarema; editing by Louise Heavens and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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