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The 59-year-old tycoon had pledged shares in Liquid Telecom to the PIC as security for the loan, which had been taken out with Deutsche Bank. Masiyiwa was planning to repay the debt from the proceeds of an initial public offering in Liquid Telecom, which was scrapped because of volatile equity markets, the people said.
The founder of Econet Global, which has interests in mobile-phone network operators and digital-banking operations across the continent, would rather sell part of his 66% stake in Liquid Telecom to avoid surrendering shares in the company at a discount to the PIC, one of the people said.
Masiyiwa hired Goldman Sachs earlier this year to sell the stake, but talks with potential investors started unravelling after the Covid-19 outbreak intensified in March, the people said. Buyers wanted more time to assess the economic fallout of lockdowns to contain the virus on Africa's economies, they said.
Representatives for the PIC, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and Econet declined to comment.
Liquid Telecom operates in 13 countries in East, Central and southern Africa with data centres in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Nairobi. It also offers cloud-based services from Microsoft, according to its website. UK development finance institution CDC in December 2018 bought almost 10% of Liquid Telecom for $180 million.