Digicel denies pursuit by China Mobile

Digicel Samoa and Fiji are flatly denying reports that Digicel may be bought by China Mobile after reports emerged in the respected Australian business newspaper the Australian Financial Review (A.F.R.).

The reports quoted unnamed sources as saying that the Chinese state-owned operator was looking at more than T$2 billion to seal the deal.

Digicel Samoa Chief Executive Officer, Mark Witthuhn, said the news reports on the sale are untrue, despite the Australian Government stating it is monitoring the situation.

“Digicel can categorically state that there is no basis to this whatsoever and that no approach has been made to us,” Mr. Witthuhn said.

“Digicel is committed to the Pacific and will continue to serve the people of Samoa and South Pacific.”

The Fijian Broadcasting Corporation reports Digicel Fiji boss (formerly in Samoa) Farid Mohammed echoed similar sentiments in a statement, which was sent from the company’s regional headquarters in Suva.

“Digicel, the complete communications and entertainment provider in Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu and Nauru, states that there is no basis to the article in the Australian Financial Review on the sale of the company,” the statement reads.

A.F.R. reports China Mobile, which is a state-owned mobile operator, is allegedly looking at a deal worth US$900 million and Government officials in Canberra told A.F.R. they are monitoring the deal.

The news outlet understands a group led by a senior Australian telecommunications executive is gathering investor support internationally and looking to bid against China Mobile. But the bid may need the support of an Australian federal government loan.

Digicel, which is the largest mobile operator in the Pacific, is US$6.7 billion in debt, with lenders looking to collect in the next 30 months, A.F.R. reports. 

Irish billionaire Denis O’Brien founded Digicel in 2001 and to date has invested more than US$5 billion in its global operations. 

According to sources involved in the deal, China Mobile has been looking into Digicel’s Pacific operations since early this year and would separate it from the rest of the operations, A.F.R. reports.

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and China Mobile have been approached for comment.

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