Page last updated at 13:41 GMT, Thursday, 3 July 2008 14:41 UK

Vodafone in Ghanaian mobile deal

Food market in Accra
Vodafone is attracted by Ghana's strong economy and political stability

Mobile phone firm Vodafone is to expand its presence in Africa by buying a controlling stake in Ghana Telecom for 452m ($900m).

The British firm will acquire 70% of the currently state-owned firm with the government retaining a 30% interest.

Currently Ghana's third-largest mobile provider with 1.4 million customers, Vodafone said there was substantial potential for future growth.

Rapid uptake in mobile use on the continent has attracted foreign firms.

Scope for growth

Vodafone already owns half of Vodacom, the leading mobile business in South Africa, Tanzania, Lesotho and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

India's Reliance Communications is currently in merger talks with rival South African firm MTN.

The investment potential of mobile phones in Africa was illustrated by the recent market frenzy surrounding the partial flotation of Kenyan provider Safaricom.

Ghana is one of the most attractive markets in Africa
Arun Sarin, Vodafone chief executive

Its shares rose 60% on their market debut last month amid investor clamour for the 25% stake sold by the government.

There are currently 2.7 million mobile subscribers in Ghana, although overall mobile penetration per head of the population in the west African country remains low at 35%.

Vodafone said demographic factors pointed to huge scope for both personal and commercial growth, with more than half of the population aged under 25.

It has set itself a target of increasing Ghana Telecom's share of mobile users from 17% currently to 25% and is committed to investing $500m to expand network coverage.

As well as mobile interests, Ghana Telecom has a monopoly over fixed-line services and employs 4,000 staff.

"Ghana is one of the most attractive markets in Africa," said Vodafone chief executive Arun Sarin, announcing what is likely to be his last major deal before he steps down later this month.

"I expect that our investment will generate substantial benefits for Vodafone and for the Ghanaian economy."

The deal, which must be approved by Ghana's Parliament, is expected to be concluded later this year.

Vodafone has recently sought to focus on emerging markets with high growth potential and less established competition, exiting more mature markets such as Japan.

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