Vodafone terminates talks to sell Egyptian business to Saudi Telecom Company

The two sides agreed in January that STC would buy Vodafone's majority stake for $2.4bn

Vodafone, the London-listed telecoms company, is the world's second biggest mobile operator. Reuters

British mobile carrier Vodafone said it has terminated talks with Saudi Telecom Company, the biggest telecommunications operator in the kingdom by market value, over a $2.4 billion sale of its 55 per cent stake in Vodafone Egypt after a series of missed deadlines to conclude the deal.

The London-listed telecoms company, which is the world's second-largest mobile operator, said it is retaining its stake in Vodafone Egypt in a brief statement on Monday, without giving further details.

"We believe that the Egyptian government is committed to an optimal framework for the telecoms sector … which will enable Vodafone Egypt to deliver on the country's vision of digitisation and financial inclusion and create a technology hub to support our growth in the African region," Vodafone’s group chief executive Nick Read said.

The remaining 45 per cent shares in Vodafone Egypt are held by state-controlled entity Telecom Egypt.

STC did not immediately respond to The National's request for comment.

In January, STC agreed to buy Vodafone's 55 per cent stake in its Egyptian unit as it looked to expand into the Arab world's most populous nation, part of a wider plan to grow its operation in the region and beyond.

The Covid-19 outbreak has delayed STC's efforts to complete the purchase of a 55% stake in Vodafone Egypt. Reuters

It signed a non-binding agreement, which was extended in April due to pandemic-related logistical challenges. The agreement was extended again in July, as “the parties need more time to complete the processes related to the transaction, including the due diligence”.

In September, STC said it could not reach a settlement within the agreed timeframe but agreed to continue discussions with Vodafone.

STC, which is majority owned by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, previouslymounted an unsuccessful bid in 2013 to acquire a 45 per cent stake in Telecom Egypt. However, analysts said earlier this year that Egypt's state-owned operator could be more willing to sell its stake in Vodafone Egypt after launching its own mobile network, known as ‘We’, in 2017.

Egypt, the most populous country in the Middle East and North Africa, is one of the largest telecoms markets in the region, making it a prime target for operators looking to enter high-growth territories.

With 44 million subscribers and a 40 per cent market share, Vodafone Egypt is the North African country's biggest mobile operator.