Cable and Wireless Communications sells Dhiraagu majority stake to Bahrain’s Batelco

Dhiraagu has said it remains “businesses as usual” for its operations after the group’s majority shareholder Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC) announced today it would be selling its stake in the company to Bahrain-based Batelco.

The agreement will see CWC divest its businesses in a number of nations, including the Maldives, Channel Islands and Isle of Man, the Seychelles, Diego Garcia as well as other South Atlantic operations it has stakes in for a fee of US$680 million (MVR10.4bn).

Dhiraagu’s Manager for Marketing, Communications and Public Relations Mohamed Mirshan Hassan told Minivan News that Batelco’s purchase – expected to be completed by the end of CWC’s present financial year – would have no immediate impact on the company’s existing services or expansion plans. Batelco has pledged to invest further in the company to strengthen Dhiraagu’s position in the Maldivian telecommunications sector.


As of March this year, CWC controlled 52 percent of Dhiraagu’s shares, with the government holding just under 42 percent.

Mirshan added that there had been no discussions over whether its new majority shareholder would look to add to its stake  in the telecommunications provider.

“There has been no mention of this at the moment,” he said, adding that it would remain “business as usual” for the company once the sale of its shares had been completed.

In addressing the sale, CWC CEO Tony Rice said that the company was selling its Monaco and Islands portfolio, which includes the stake in Dhiraagu, as part of its wider aims to expand the group’s Pan-America operations.

Meanwhile, Batelco Group Chief Executive, Sheikh Mohamed bin Isa Al Khalifa said the group would look to make further investment in Dhiraagu following completion of the deal.

“Batelco is in the process of building a telecoms business of global relevance of which the Maldives will be an important part,” he said. “We will continue the development of Dhiraagu as a market leader and we are looking forward to supporting each of the businesses and contributing to the communities they operate in.”

Dhiraagu itself is one of the country’s largest service providers, dominating the internet and telecommunications sector alongside its main competitor, Wataniya.

Set up back in 1988, the company has said it presently employs over 600 staff across the Maldives, 99 percent of whom are said to be local workers.

CWC took a controlling stake in Dhiraagu in 2009 when former President Mohamed Nasheed’s government sold 7 percent of its shares, giving the British-based firm a controlling stake in the company.

Then-opposition parties criticised the sale in local media, arguing that the acquisition of large stakes of domestic companies by foreign investors was bad for the country.

Similar arguments have been levelled against the development of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) by Indian company GMR. Earlier today, GMR secured an injunction from the High Court of Singapore against the Maldives cabinet’s earlier decision to void its concession agreement for the US$511 million project and issue the developer with a seven day eviction notice.

The Maldivian government nonetheless has today dismissed such an injunction and vowed that the airport will be run by the state-owned Maldives Airport Company Limited (MACL) by the coming Saturday (December 7).


World should rejoice that governments have forever lost the ability to control information, Nasheed tells UN

The chain of protests that rocked the Arab world this year have shown that governments have forever lost the ability to control information, President Mohamed Nasheed has said in a keynote address to the United Nations, including the 47 members of the UN Human Rights Council.

“Those of us who believe in individual liberties should rejoice at this fact because, quite simply, it changes the rules of the game,” he said.

Describing himself as a protester, “as someone who has spent much of his adult life speaking out against leaders who place their own interests over those of their people, leaders who seek power for power’s sake,” Nasheed observed that globalisation and the democratisation of information now meant that “governments simply have no option” but to listen to the demands of pro-democracy protesters.

“In a time of awakening, Muslims across the world are standing up, governments must see peaceful protests not as a threat but as an opportunity,” Nasheed said.

“It is a a moment when Muslims across the world are standing up as one to demand equality, human rights, democracy and the rule of law. These developments provide a fitting rebuttal to those, inside and outside of Islam, who claim that our religion is not compatible with democracy.”

Nasheed predicted that 2011 would come to be seen “as a tipping point for peaceful protests, as the moment when the balance of power swung, irreversibly, from the state to the streets.”

“In the past, when news and information were more malleable, governments had the option of suppressing protests in the hope of breaking them before news spread. Swift, decisive and often violent action at the outset could, in this sense, nip the problem in the bud. Life, especially for those in positions of power, could go on as normal,” he observed.

“In the past, facts and truths could be constructed and controlled by a few. Today they can be discovered and learned by everyone. The use of modern communication technology has allowed those with grievances to mobilise and spread their message. And, crucially, modern media also provides a lens through which the outside world can witness events unfold and learn the truth.”

As a result of globalisation and the communication revolution, “the more a government tries to control, the less control it actually has. The more those in power try to tighten their grip, the more power slips through their fingers,” Nasheed said.

“Today, the only way to rule sustainably is to rule with the trust and consent of the governed.”

Protests in the Maldives began eight years ago, changing the course of the country’s history, Nasheed explained.

“At one level we were protesting against something – against an autocratic system of government which had monopolised power for thirty years. But we were also protesting for something – for a better, fairer system of government, for equality and for justice.

“Today, we have succeeded in sweeping away the old. In 2008 the previous government was peacefully removed from power in free and fair elections under a new Constitution.”

Nasheed emphasised that the country’s first democratic multi-party elections were just the beginning of true democratic reform. The present challenges faced by the Maldives – not just the strengthening of independent institutions but also confronting the past – would be mirrored in Tunisia and Egypt, he predicted.

“One challenge is to establish and strengthen independent institutions, to ensure that democracy and human rights are guaranteed regardless of who is in power. A second challenge relates to transitional justice and reconciliation – how to deal with the past without endangering the future,” he explained.

“There can be no doubt that serious human rights violations were committed in the Maldives and that the victims of those violations deserve justice. But we must draw a clear line between reconciliation and revenge. To move forward, the search for truth and justice must be placed within an overall framework of national reconciliation – we must look forward, not back.

“A third challenge is to rebuild the economic fabric of the country. People cannot properly enjoy democratic freedoms if their basic needs are left unfulfilled. Without socio-economic development, political transitions quickly unravel.

“These challenges are relevant not only for the Maldives. They are also relevant for other countries that have dismantled autocratic regimes.”