Econet is now Essar Telecom Kenya

April 2, 2009
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, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 2- Mobile phone operator Econet Wireless Kenya has changed its name to Essar Telecom Kenya Limited.

The company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Srinivasa Iyengar told a press briefing that the change had been prompted by the need to put to rest rumours that MTN Group was looking to acquire a stake at Econet Wireless.

“They (rumours) are causing unnecessary stress for us because instead of concentrating on business, I have to answer 25 calls everyday to dispel the rumours. Now at least it’s Essar and hopefully people will get tired of talking about it. That’s the whole idea,” said Iyengar who was at pains to explain whether a change of the name would stop people from speculating about an acquisition.

Although he insisted that he did not know where the rumours originated from, he reckoned that they were probably coming because of the controversy surrounding their company before they received their license to operate in the local market.

“We put a powerful name, Essar (Communications Holdings) which is a $60billion Group and hopefully those reports will stop because such a rumour cannot be attributed to a big company,” he argued.

Essar Communications, which is based in India holds a 49 percent stake at Econet Wireless International which owns a 70 percent share in Econet Wireless Kenya.

The CEO said they have already informed the Communication Commission of Kenya (CCK) of their adjustment even though they didn’t particularly require an approval from the regulator since they were not changing the shareholding structure.

He expressed confidence that this would not confuse their customers as their ‘yu’ brand remains unaffected.

“If you see our brand, we have always said it is powered by Essar. We are not doing anything different and our brand remains ‘yu’ so there should not be confusion for the end user,” he emphasised.

Mr Iyengar said the company had continued to make investments in different areas to ensure they achieve their target of having a countrywide presence in the next five months and two million subscribers by the end of the year. Currently, the company that launched its GSM network services in November last year has a subscriber base of 250,000.

The company secured a Sh35 billion loan to roll out its services across the country.

He disclosed that they had so far built 200 sites and would soon put up 300 more.

“In addition, we are getting into a site-sharing arrangement with one of the operators which will enable us to cover the whole of Kenya at a record time of less than one year since we launched,” he further revealed.

CCK is developing a policy that will encourage the players to share their infrastructure which helps firms to reduce their operational costs.

During the function, the CEO also announced an offer where their customer will be able to send free text messages for an unspecified period.

Mr Iyengar said they were passing the benefit of lower rates to its subscribers as a means of breaking the cost element which has been touted as a major barrier to mobile communication usage in Kenya.

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