Of How Airtel Used a Lebanese to Broker Warid Takeover and Dumped Him without Paying his UGX20Bn

Airtel Uganda boss Tom Gutjahr (Courtesy photo)

KAMPALA, Uganda: In 2009, Warid telecom jumped out of the competitive telecommunication market in Uganda.  The Asia headquartered Bharti Airtel Limited picked keen interest in buying the departing Warid business as well as its assets in Uganda.

But the process of buying Warid would prove tricky for airtel. It was complex in the sense that it had to involve meeting a number of stakeholders including His Highness Sheikh Nahayan Mubarak Al Nahayan. Sheikh Nahayan is the chairman of the Abu Dhabi Group, which incidentally owned a big stake in Warid. airtel did not have the means to go all the way on its own as far as sealing the buy-out in question was concerned.

Luckily for airtel, came one Wissam K Fawaz who assured its bosses including top brass one Sunil Bharti Mittal that he knew how to deliver the deal. Negotiations between Fawaz and aitrtel bosses followed thus. The negotiations would culminate into Sunil writing to Sheikh Nahayan on October 13, 2009, expressing airtel’s desire to take hundred percent of Warid operations as well as assets in Uganda.

In this letter Sunil indicated to his Highness Nahayan that he had held a number of discussions between him  and airtel where Fawaz impressed upon Airtel the desire for giving services and considerations to acquiring Warid Telecoms assets in Uganda. Fawaz points out via a latest lawsuit he has lodged at the commercial section of the High Court in Uganda seeking payment for brokering the eventual takeover of Warid by Airtel. Top commercial law attorney, MMAKS are pursuing the matter on Fawaz’s behalf.

The letter whose title reads, “Warid’s Investments in Uganda and Brazzaville Congo” and seen by this website goes on to indicate how Airtel had already communicated to Fawaz their wish to acquire Warid and that they wanted to do so with speed. The letter points out that Fawaz was responsible for coordinating the visit of Sunil and other top officials of airtel to Sheikh Nahayan which visits he claims to have organized. Fawaz submits to court a number of e-mail messages bearing chats between Airtel bosses in India notably from Sunil’s office pleading that he (Fawaz) arranges such visits as well as audiences for them with Sheikh Nahayan in furtherance of the Warid takeover.

The Investigator has seen a written agreement between Fawaz and Airtel ratifying the brokerage relationship between him and the telecom firm. It is dated October 14, 2009. Shaun Parmer, the airtel’s group Corporate Director in charge of mergers, acquisitions and business development signed the agreement on behalf of airtel.

According to the agreement now forming part of documented evidence before court, airtel was to reward Fawaz by paying him two percent of the purchase price of Warid. But while airtel finally bought Warid at more than USD18m on April 18, 2013, the telecom firm has since declined to meet his share amounting to USD3,729,423.

The object of this lawsuit then is to have Airtel pay through court the sums stated with a ten percent interest calculated from May 2013 on an annual basis, damages for breach of contract as well as costs of the suit. The lawsuit has been allocated to Lady Justice Ann Bitature Mugenyi. Airtel has 15 days to file their defense failure of which the case will be decided in their absence.

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