Morupisi hails Mascom as cash cow

SHARE   |   Tuesday, 18 April 2017   |   By Ditiro Motlhabane
Morupisi hails Mascom as cash cow

Boitumelo Molefe, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF) is in pole position to replace outgoing Mascom board chairman Carter Morupisi after her name was submitted by the board of trustees alongside those of Brigadier Charles Nkele of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) and Ishmael Selebogo of Botswana Pensioners' Association. The woman at the helm of the richest pension fund in the country is said to be the most suitable candidate, with requisite qualifications and business acumen to lead Mascom as chairperson. The looming appointment comes shortly after Molefe completed the rebranding of the P59 Billion Pension Fund. This followed closely after the rollout of a new strategy to insource the fund administration mandate, which precipitated the need to restructure the organisation. She acquitted herself with distinction in her first assignment – the restructuring exercise – soon after taking office at the end of 2015. 

Morupisi out
The appointment of a new chairperson comes after confirmation that Carter Morupisi will leave the position at end of May after defying recall at the billion Pula telecommunications giant by the BPOPF board of trustees since January 2016.
"Yes, I am leaving at the end of May. The BPOPF board has already submitted names of those nominated to replace me," said Morupisi, adding that he has successfully completed assignments he was tasked with as Chairman. But a source says in actual fact, the last board meeting was made to understand by him (Morupisi) that he is leaving with immediate effect after a series of about five board meetings where the matter had been discussed. "That he resigns at the end of May is not in accordance with the resolution of the last board meeting held in February," the source said. Other sources say the departure of Morupisi – the Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP), and Chairman of BPOPF board of Trustees – from Mascom will reduce influence by government on decisions made by the leadership of the company. More importantly, it could signal transformation in the shareholding of the company, which could have far reaching consequences on the business and socio-economic front. Licensed in February 1998, Mascom is the leading mobile telecommunications operator in Botswana, with a subscriber base in excess of 1.8 million, giving it a market share of just over 53% of the Botswana mobile telecoms market.

With a 50 % stake in Mascom, BPOPF is the majority shareholder followed by South African-based MTN, who acquired more shares from local investors to raise its stake to the current 40%. The remaining 7-10 % is held by Zimbabwean business tycoon Strive Masiyiwa – the founder of Mascom (abbreviation for Masiyiwa Communications) – through his other company, Econet Wireless, one of the leading continental players in the telecoms sector. Through BPOPF appointed board members, Government has maintained a strangle hold on Mascom and dominates control of the board. Such control was augmented by a complex management contract entered into with Portugal Telecom Group – the company that has been appointing Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) at Mascom since inception. The current CEO, Jose Vieira Couceira, is a Portuguese who joined Mascom over 13 years ago as a Chief Planning and Control officer under the Portugal Telecom management contract. José Couceiro was re-appointed the CEO of Mascom, now under the direct employment of Mascom Wireless, on 1st October 2015.  One of the assignments, which Morupisi told this publication last year that he was winding up before handing over to his successor, was the termination of the Portugal Telecom Group management contract in 2015. "We have successfully concluded the matter," he said on Tuesday, without giving away much information.

Ownership tussle
The constitution of the board at Mascom has been used by government to block and frustrate any efforts by MTN to take over control in management of the company. With Morupisi out of the way, MTN could grab the 7% shares offered by the minority shareholder Econet, which the BPOPF board rejected saying it was too expensive. A source confirmed the board decision, but Morupisi denied knowledge of any such offer from Econet. Masiyiwa – chairman and founder of Econet – is reportedly looking to raise $50 million by selling the remaining stake in Mascom through an offer which had valued Mascom around P7.7 billion, while BPOPF valued the company at P5 billion, according to zimditvnews sources. Morupisi denies that there have been any discussions about selling off BPOPF shares at Mascom, as alleged by zimditvnews reports last week. He said BPOPF continues to be the majority shareholder and any suggestions about leaving the money spinning telecommunications industry are ridiculous. "Mascom is our biggest income earner. It is nonsensical to even imagine that any right thinking investor can relinquish such a lucrative opportunity. No, we are not leaving Mascom anytime soon," he said matter-of-factly.