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Row over Kenya fibre cable downplayed

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 6 – The row surrounding the shareholding structure of The East African Marines Systems (TEAMS), will not hamper the operations of the fibre optic cable, the firm’s Chairman Michael Joseph has said.

Mr Joseph told Capital Business that disagreements arising after two firms sought a court injunction prohibiting the board from issuing their shares to other companies, will not hinder the operationalisation of the cable.

“There are no wrangles that affect the operations of TEAMS, it’s just that these shareholders didn’t have the money at the time and if we kept to the essence of the agreement, they would no longer be shareholders,” he said.

Four firms; Flashcom, Africa Fibrenet Uganda, Iquip Limited and Inhand had expressed interest to buy a five percent stake (each at 1.25 percent) valued at Sh400 million which would give them access to international bandwidth at a discount.

Despite their failure to meet the set deadline, they have maintained that they are still shareholders of the cable that links the country through Mombasa to Fujairah in United Arabs Emirates.

The Memorandum of Understanding signed by all parties states that if the four (or any company that has not paid for its equity contribution) are no longer shareholders, then their shares are offered to the existing shareholders in proportion to their stake.
“If none of the shareholders wants them, then they can be offered to other people outside the company (TEAMS Limited),” Mr Joseph explained.

Mr Joseph, who’s also the CEO of Safaricom however said they were trying to resolve the issue which he hoped would be discussed by shareholders mid this month.

“We are trying to come up with a compromise by giving them the shares but that issue will finally be brought before the shareholders in the next two weeks, where we will then get a final resolution on the matter,” he added.

The cable is said to be ready for commercial service which means that all the TEAMS shareholders can now access it and commence commercial deployment.

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Mr Joseph said the official launch of the cable which is co-owned by Etisalat – a Dubai based company with a 15 percent stake – will be done soon.

Although many parties have downplayed these disagreements, it is clear that TEAMS has not achieved its objective of lowering the cost of internet access.

This has led to an exchange between Information Permanent Secretary Dr Bitange Ndemo and the Safaricom CEO.

Mr Ndemo maintains that the capacity is there and that the argument that the internet service providers are trying to recoup their investment costs does not hold water.

“The initial objective was access that every Kenyan will be able to access this broadband and I’m sure that even before the 15th (October) the price will be at a level which is acceptable to most of us,” the PS said.

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