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France’s telecom giant Orange has opted to withdraw from the bidding process to acquire a potential 45% stake in Ethio Telecom, as reported by Reuters. This development marks another setback for the Ethiopian government, following the recent cancellation of a second private telecoms license due to insufficient market interest.

Ethiopia initiated the tendering process for a 40% stake in Ethio Telecom in June 2021, but economic conditions led to a postponement in March 2022. The process was subsequently revived in November 2022, with an increased stake offering announced in February.

Bloomberg previously disclosed that Emirates Telecommunications Group Co. (e&) and France’s Orange SA were exploring bids for the aforementioned stake in Ethiopia’s state-controlled telecom operator.

“Orange confirms that it has decided to withdraw from the ongoing process regarding the sale of 45% of Ethio Telecom,” the company said in a statement to Reuters.

“After analysis, the Group believes that the conditions do not allow for the rapid deployment of our strategy and the completion of a project that would create value for the company,” the statement added.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s visited Paris in February 2023 and had emphasized Ethiopia’s openness to investments from French companies. The privatization of state-owned entities like Ethio Telecom was a key reform commitment made by Abiy upon taking office in 2018, with the goal of modernizing Ethiopia’s predominantly state-controlled economy.

Ethio Telecom reported a subscriber base of 72 million by the end of June 2023 and generated a total revenue of 75.8 billion birr (1.3 billion dollars) in the Ethiopian fiscal year spanning July 2022 to June 2023.

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