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Caribbean company in preliminary talks

By Ednal Palmer

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Feb. 29, 2008) – The Solomon Islands National Provident Fund (NPF) says it’s not a party to recent talks to sell Our Telekom.

NPF is the biggest shareholder (64.74 per cent) in Our Telekom.

General Manager Tony Makabo said they were not part of the discussions.

Our Telekom Chief Executive Martyn Robinson recently held talks with rivals Digicel Pacific on a possible takeover.

Digicel is an Irish-owned telecommunications company.

[PIR editor’s note: Irishman Denis O’Brien founded Digicel, the Caribbean-based telecom, which since 2001 has been expanding rapidly in that region and more recently appeared in the Pacific, with aggressive entry into the telecom monopoly markets of Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Tonga.]

Mr Makabo described the recent talks between the two companies as "exploratory".

"It was just exploratory talks because it did not include all the shareholders," Mr Makabo said.

"Therefore, it would be wrong to say they are planning to sell Our Telekom," he said.

But Mr Makabo said that there would be two options if the matter is further pursued:

Asked if NPF would be prepared to sell its shares, Mr Makabo said that would be a matter for the board to decide.

Meanwhile, a representative of Our Telekom workers said they are watching developments closely.

Digicel was trying to set up its operation here since 2006.

But Our Telekom’s 15-year exclusive licence prevented them from operating here.

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