The government has decided to release a third of its shares in local telcoms giant Dhiraagu to the public.
Dhiraagu a major player in the telecommunications, mobile and broadband internet markets of the Maldives, and is one of the country’s most profitable companies.
The government will make a third of its shares available to the public from October, to both local and foreign parties, reports Sun Online. Share prices have not yet been published.
The Maldivian government previously held 55 percent of Dhiraagu’s shares, while the British company Cable and Wireless held the remaining 45 percent. Upon winning the 2008 presidential election, President Nasheed’s government sold 7 percent of the shares to Cable and Wireless, reducing government shares to 48 percent and giving Cable and Wireless a controlling interest.
Minister of Economic Development and Foreign Trade, Mahmoud Razee, told Sun that studies would determine the prices and ratios of shares to be offered in local and international markets, and that the shares would be “affordable” to the average Maldivian.
Minister Razee also stated that as Dhiraagu was a strong company, people could benefit from buying its shares.
Opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Deputy Leader Ibrahim ‘Mavota’ Shareef told Minivan News that the shares were valuable, but said he was not in favor of selling them.
“As far as [the DRP] is concerned, we do not believe this is a wise decision. Dhiraggu is a very profitable and well-managed company, and it makes a lot of money for the government. This is a time when we are undergoing an economic crisis, and we cannot afford to have these shares dispersed.”
Shareef said he thought most Maldivians would be interested in the shares, but said he doubted whether the majority of people would be able to afford them.
“The people who have the capacity to buy these shares are either foreign companies, or very rich Maldivians,” he said.
The government estimates that the sale of the shares will generate Rf 1.46 billion (US$95 million).
Shareef said the outcome would be obvious as soon as the shares hit the market.
“In the Maldives, we know who has the money. We know a majority of people don’t have the money. There must be some political reason for this decision, it’s not just an economic strategy,” he suggested.