Credible report gathered by the Heritage has divulged that Comium Liberia has been allegedly sold to Mr. George Abou Joaude for US$18M.
Mr. George Abou Joaude is a top Lebanese business man operating in the country. The report says the influential Lebanese business tycoon is very close to a member of the first family and that he is being used to front for a member of the first family in the alleged sale of Comium for US$18million.
Comium Liberia is one of the GSM companies operating in the country. According to report obtained from officialdom by this paper, the alleged sale of Comium includes the assumption of the company’s local debts. It could be recalled that sometimes ago, Comium was given notice by the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) that its license would be cancelled for indebtedness to the Government of Liberia (GOL).
The LTA is the regulatory body for telecommunications in Liberia. The report further divulged that Mr. Abou Jaoude has planned to re-sell the company and make a huge profit for him and a member of the first family. In a bid to re-sell the company, the Heritage has gathered that the new owner will have to go on a massive marketing campaign that will lead to short term goals with long term effects on the sector.
Such a marketing campaign, the Heritage further gathered that this will result into price wars, free calls and unrealistic offers that will force other operators to compromise sound business decisions. Already, Comium is offering free Heineken Beer to subscribers on purchases of recharge vouchers.
“Mr. George Abou Jaoude is the agent for Heineken in Liberia. All these measures are intended to allow Comium to make enough noise and quickly gain subscribers that would facilitate the resale of the company,” one industry observer averred. “George is not a telecom man and has never been in this business.
He was interested in buying Comium for cheap, then he planned to spoil the market to increase his market share so that he would be able to flip the company and make big profit. This kind of thing is bad for the industry and will have a negative effect because such action is not meant to improve the sector, but to exploit it for quick windfall, ” the industry observer, who spoke to this paper on condition of anonymity, further averred.
Up to present time, Mr. Abou Jaoude could not be reached for comments concerning the alleged sale of Comium Liberia for US$18million by him. The paper gathered that he is out of the country. However, an unidentified man, who claimed to be a relative of Mr. Abou Jaoude, confirmed that Mr. Abou Jaoude bought large shares of Comium Liberia.
The unidentified relative, who spoke to this paper via cell phone(Comium line-05444441) regarding the matter, maintained that they indeed bought large shares of Comium Liberia, boasting that there is nothing wrong with it. Quizzed about the monetary value attached to the shares, he responded harshly in these words: “ We use our money the way we want to use it, it is not anyone business to determine how we use our money. How many shares we bought is not your business, You are asking rubbished question.” He did not further comment.
Earlier, when this paper contacted Aunt Jannies-the oldest sister of President Johnson-Sirleaf via cell phone( 05611611-Comium line) regarding the alleged first family link to the alleged sale of Comium-Liberia for US$18M, she instead inquired as to how the paper got her cell phone number. She then uttered these words in an inconsiderate tone and hanged up: “ I have no comment, who gave you my number.”
Meanwhile, the Commissioner for Public and Consumer Affairs at the LTA, Mr. Lamini Warity, when also contacted, confirmed that shares of Comium have been sold. In a chat with this paper, Commissioner Waritay explained that Comium has the right to sell shares or change ownership.
According to him, the LTA provides under Section 32 of the TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT 2007 if it has to do with dominant provider. But in the absence of a Regulation (LTA is working on Regulation) that identifies a provider who controls 60% of the market, Comium has the right to sell or transfer ownership. Out of courtesy, he said they informed LTA, and LTA informed them of Comium’s obligation to LTA and the Government of Liberia.
He said a payment arrangement was made regarding Comium’s obligation to LTA and GOL. When quizzed as to the alleged link of a member of the first family to the Comium shares issue, he said he has no knowledge. According to Section 32 of the TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT 2007
32. Transfers of Control of Service Providers:
(1) Subject to this Section, no approvals shall be required for the transfer of control of a service provider.
(2) No transfer of control of a service provider shall be effected without the prior approval of the LTA if:
(a) a dominant service provider, or an affiliate of a dominant service provider is:
i) the person ultimately acquiring control of the service provider; or
ii) the person whose control is being transferred; or
(b) as a result of the transfer, a person, alone or with its affiliates, would become a dominant service provider according to any applicable criteria, methodology or processes for the designation of dominant service providers published by the LTA.
(3) No transfer of control that requires approval under Section 32 (2) shall be completed or have any legal force or effect unless the person applying for approval of the transfer has received written approval for the transfer from the LTA.