A Vodafone Group Plc consortium and MTN Group Ltd. submitted bids for permits to operate in Ethiopia that were much less than what was sought by the government of Africa’s second-most populous nation, people with knowledge of the matter said.
Vodafone’s consortium, which includes Safaricom Plc of Kenya and the U.K. carrier’s South African unit Vodacom Group Ltd., submitted a bid of $850 million, according to the people who declined to be identified because the results are not yet public.
MTN, which is in a partnership with The Silk Road Fund of China, offered $600 million, according to the people.
The government is now weighing a decision to accept one or both of the bids, or cancel the process and restart, according to the people. An announcement on the matter will be made in days, they said.
“We think we have received strong offers,” Balcha Reba, Ethiopian Communication Authority’s director general, said in a televised presentation on Thursday.
“However, there was a 29.4% difference between the highest and second highest offers,” he said, adding that government will decide to either cancel the process and restart or award one or both licenses.
Representatives of Vodacom and MTN declined to comment when contacted on Friday.
The government has been in a long bidding process for the licenses and is set to sell part of government-owned monopoly Ethiopian Telecommunication Corp. as part of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s plan to open up Ethiopia’s state-dominated economy to more foreign capital.
Investors coveted Ethiopia, with 110 million people and one of the last remaining large telecommunication markets in the world. But their enthusiasm was curbed by the authorities’ temporary exclusion of the provision of the lucrative mobile money or financial-technology services from the licenses.
That decision may have made the licenses about $500 million less valuable, according to the government.