Vodacom Sued for $14 Billion in Democratic Republic of Congo

  • Businessman Conteh makes claim linked to Vodacom partner CWR
  • Suit is ``unfounded and unsubstantiated,'' Vodacom says

Vodacom Group Ltd., the South African unit of Vodafone Group Plc, is being sued for $14 billion in the Democratic Republic of Congo by Alieu Conteh, the controlling shareholder of the wireless company’s minority partner in the country.

The claim relates to allegations by Conteh that Johannesburg-based Vodacom’s international unit helped to undermine the businessman’s position as a statutory director of Congolese Wireless Network, which owns a 49 percent stake in Vodacom Congo. Conteh’s action in the Commercial Court of Kinshasa/Gombe also seeks to overturn a court decision stripping him of his directorship.

“Vodacom International Limited is opposing Mr Conteh’s claim, which we believe is unfounded and unsubstantiated,” spokesman Tshepo Ramodibe said in an e-mailed response to questions on Wednesday. “Our view is that Mr Conteh’s action is primarily a challenge to the decision of the Commercial Court of Kinshasa/Gombe which removed him as a co-manager of CWN.”

Conteh didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Vodacom shares fell as much as 2.4 percent, the most since Sept. 28, and traded 0.7 percent lower at 147.50 rand at the market close in Johannesburg. The stock is up 15 percent this year, valuing the company at 219 billion rand.

Vodacom was in a dispute with CWN in 2012 about ownership and investment in the unit, which had 11.9 million customers at the end of June, a 14 percent increase on the previous year. The company also has operations in Tanzania and Mozambique as well as South Africa.

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