Vodafone Fiji back in talks

Port Moresby : The National - FIJI National Provident Fund chairman Ajith Kodagoda says they have resumed talks with the Independent Public Business Corporation in PNG over the sale of bemobile.
He said certain conditions critical to the achievement of the business plan projections were not met, resulting in it pulling out of the agreement signed last April to buy off 40% of bemobile.
IPBC managing director Wasantha Kumarasiri was not available yesterday to confirm this announcement. 
State Enterprises Minister Ben Micah said on Monday that FNPF had decided not to extend the grace period, “meaning that they have pulled out”.
“This effectively means that the State will have to look at the investment strategy for bemobile going forward through other options,” Micah said.
“They (FNPF) advised the chairman of bemobile and IPBC some days ago.
“I was advised and we have since decided not to create any more uncertainty in the business. 
“This is why the IPBC board decided to accept the withdrawal of Fiji National Provident Fund.”
The FNPF’s announcement came after Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said on Monday that Vodafone Fiji had pulled the plug on the agreement signed with bemobile in April.
O’Neill said the PNG Government would be looking at IPBC and Telikom to fill the void.
Kodagoda said in a statement on Wednesday: “FNPF has recommenced talks with the Independent Public Business Corporation of PNG.
“The bemobile share subscription agreement was not completed as certain conditions critical to the achievement of the business plan projections were not met. 
“As custodians of members’ funds, the board is mindful of its fiduciary duties to protect and grow members’ savings and will always act in their best interest at all times. 
“The fund remains positive that parties involved would explore all alternative structures going forward.”
News of the withdrawal came as an anticlimax after all the fanfare when Micah signed an agreement worth K88 million with Vodafone in April. 
 It was the culmination of months of hard work, and would have seen bemobile with the capital and strategic partnerships to enable it to compete and thrive in both PNG and Solomon Islands and bring competition to the sector in PNG, particularly against major player Digicel. 
The loan agreement would have seen Fiji’s Vodafone manage bemobile’s telecommunication system.
Under the agreement, the IPBC would share equity of 51% while FNPF would own 40%. 
The other 9% would have been shared among PNG Sustainable Development Programme, Steamships and Nasfund.
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