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Business news, 31.10.2006 13:48

Cell Operators from St. Pete to Cross the Equator


Russian President Vladimir Putin and Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos are to discuss the entry of Russian mobile operators to Angola’s cell market at a meeting on Tuesday. SV Kapital, set up by a former aide to Svyazinvest’s director general, may become the first on the list. The company is set to put $100 million in the African business. Market watchers believe that MagaFon may join the St. Petersburg operator in the Angolan project.

President dos Santos is meeting Putin on Tuesday to discuss a possible entry of Russian mobile communications operators to Angola’s market, a source of Kommersant reported. Press services of the two presidents declined to comment information on Monday. Unofficial sources report that Putin may ask about issuing a second GSM license in Angola to the Russians.

SV Kapital is reported to be the major contender for the license. The company was established some six months ago by Vladimir Androsik, a St. Petersburg communications top manager. Androsik has worked at Telecominvest, Svyazinvest and its subsidiary Peterstar. The Russian set up his own business in January, keeping in close touch with Telecominvest. Cyrus-registered Eventis Telecom, co-owned by Androsik, set up the second GSM operator in Kyrgyzstan, Bimacom. MegaFon, a major asset of Telecominvest, has consulted Eventis in the Kyrgyz project.

Androsik says Angola is “a very promising market with a low level of cell communications coverage and high growth rates.” The businessman told Kommersant preliminary talks with the Angolan party had already been held but declined to name the companies or agencies. SV Kapital’s founder also said that the budget of the project would come to $100 million.

Angola has 2.3 million cell subscribers, which is 15 percent of the population. The communications market is controlled by Unitel, the sole GSM operator in the country. The number of subscribers in Angola goes up 100 percent annually.

Sources close to the project say that MegaFon might join SV Kapital in the project. MegaFon said yesterday they are not doing the Angolan project of SV Kapital so far.

Opinions have split on the future of Russian operators on Angola’s market. Oksana Pankratova from Comnews Research says SV Kapital follows the example of overseas operators which take risks and “enter countries even with low living standards and unstable political situation.”

Quite on the contrary, Yuly Matevosov from Dresdner Bank’s analytical department believes that social and political problems may hamper cell business in Angola. “Angola has been living in civil war for a number of years. Besides, examples of other African countries with natural resources-based economies show that stratification of the population there is enormous and a swift rise in demand on cell communications may soon end as most people will be unable to pay for it,” he says.

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