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Telco CEO defends firm’s dominance as he resumes work

Nairobi, Monday

Mobile operator Safaricom does not hinder competition, its chief executive Bob Collymore told MPs yesterday as he returned to work after a nine-month absence for medical treatment.

The country’s industry regulator — Communications Authority (CA) — recommended in a draft proposal in May that Safaricom, which controls 67 per cent of the mobile market, should offer rivals access to its transmission sites and its vast network of mobile money outlets to increase competition in the sector.

“Thirty million customers have made a conscious decision to come onto Safaricom’s network,” Collymore told a parliamentary committee when asked if Safaricom was hindering competition.The committee is looking into whether any measures should be taken to boost competition in the market following the CA draft proposal.

Collymore said he was confident authorities would not seek to punish the success of Safaricom, which is 35 per cent-owned by South African group Vodacom with the Kenyan government and Britain’s Vodafone also holding stakes.“I didn’t get the sense from the committee that they are looking to cut Safaricom down to size,” he said.

“They are really genuinely examining whether there is anything else that needs to be done to encourage more competition in the marketplace.”

Collymore, who has been receiving medical treatment for an undisclosed illness, appeared to be in good health during a three-and-a-half-hour session with the National Assembly’s Communication and Information Committee and told Reuters that he would actively run the company again from now on.

He has been in charge since 2010, during which time he has overseen a surge in the company’s share price and dividends as he delivered strong results. Safaricom’s share price continued to rise during Collymore’s absence.

It gained 11 per cent during the past nine months, despite a wobble after the CA’s proposal, with the company forecasting in May that profit before interest and taxes would rise seven to 12 per cent in the year through April 2019.

“The team has done a fantastic job in my absence, you saw the results in the full year,” Collymore told Reuters after the committee hearing. –REUTERS

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