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France Telecom denies Kenya exit reports

NAIROBI, Kenya Apr 15- France Telecom, the biggest investor in Telkom Kenya, has confirmed its commitment to Kenya as a long-term strategic investor.

This follows reports indicating a possible exit by the company over losses in its Kenyan operation.

It is understood the telcom giant was dissatisfied with the progress made by Telkom Kenya and was currently engaged in heated discussions with government representatives over the shareholding structure of the company.

Media reports showed that due to the ongoing woes of its Kenyan outfit, it was looking to be refunded an equivalent amount of what it paid for a controlling stake of Telkom Kenya.

But in a quick rejoinder, a statement sent to media houses on Thursday said the ongoing shareholder discussions with the government concerning the share purchase agreement are part of the normal process for any important acquisition, and especially one in which the acquired company is undergoing a profound transformation.

“The ongoing discussions will in no way affect our service delivery and the day-to-day operations of Telkom Kenya,” it read.

France Telecom said it maintained full confidence in the business strategy at Telkom Kenya and is satisfied that the telecommunications market in the country leaves considerable potential for the company to continue to attract new customers and to see profitable growth.

“France Telecom is fully satisfied with the work that has been undertaken in Kenya since it became the majority shareholder of the country’s historic telecommunications operator in December 2007,” the company said in a statement.

It noted that Telkom Kenya was on a path to profitability following impressive results posted in the first quarter of 2010 which it said was above the budget further demonstrating an improved company performance.
 
At the end of 2009, the France Telecom Group had over 50 million customers across 18 countries in Africa and the Middle East.

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France Telecom Chief Executive Stephane Richard said the region represents a key part of the Group’s overall strategy for development.

“France Telecom will certainly be led to invest heavily across the continent. Within this strategy, Kenya will play a pivotal role in the development of the group’s presence in East Africa,” he said in the statement.

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