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Fiji Time: 7:16 PM on Wednesday 16 April

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PNG denies deal

Geraldine Panapasa
Saturday, February 16, 2013

DESPITE media reports in Papua New Guinea that its national government has secured a deal to bring Vodafone Fiji into the telecommunications market, the mobile giant and its major shareholder, the Fiji National Provident Fund remain tight-lipped on the progress of the undertaking.

The National newspaper in PNG revealed last week the deal was reached after two days of negotiations in Australia between representatives of the Independent Public Business Corporation (IPBC), Asian Development Bank, PNG superfunds, FNPF and Vodafone Fiji.

It reported IPBC would become the majority shareholder with 51 per cent while FNPF would invest capital to take a 41 per cent stake.

The remaining 8 per cent, the newspaper said, would be held by existing shareholders including NASFUND, Nambawan and PNG Sustainable Development Program.

PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill dismissed this saying publicly negotiations were in progress but no deal had been approved.

When contacted this week, FNPF acting chief executive officer Alipate Waqairawai and Bemobile acting chief executive officer Michael Ah Koy said they would make an announcement on the Bemobile venture at the appropriate time.

It was earlier reported a consortium bought into Bemobile in 2008 comprising GEMS with 20 per cent, US-based Trilogy International Partners with 20 per cent, NASFUND of PNG with 5 per cent and Nambawan Supa of PNG with another 5 per cent.

"They put up K150million (F$129.4million) for 50 per cent equity; Telikom PNG Limited, owned by the PNG government, held the other 50 per cent," said media adviser to the PNG PM Daniel Korimbao.

He said a roll-out program was promised and certain milestones were set but the company failed to take back ground in the market share from Digicel which only entered the PNG market in 2007.

Vodafone Fiji could not make a comment on the issue, referring all queries to the FNPF.