Apple iPhone 6s. (Eric Risberg, AP)
Johannesburg - Regulators have given Vodacom, MTN and Cell C the green light to acquire the subscribe base of mobile service provider Altech Autopage.
In September last year, Johannesburg listed Altron[JSE:AEL] announced that the Altech Autopage subscriber base was planned to be sold to MTN, Cell C and Vodacom for R1.46bn.
Altech Autopage is a phone service provider that sells the likes of MTN, Cell C and Vodacom contracts.
After the deal was recommended by the Competition Commission last year, it was up to the Competition Tribunal to make its call.
However, in December last year, the Tribunal referred the deal back to the Competition Commission following concerns raised by a company called Saicom Holdings, which is Altech Autopage’s largest customer.
But the Competition Commission, after investigating the matter, subsequently decided to stick to recommending the deal. This meant that the matter returned to the Competition Tribunal this week, and the Tribunal has on Friday approved the merger with conditions, opening the way for Altech Autopage to shut down in the coming months.
Among the conditions are that MTN and Vodacom must - for a period of 12 months after the transfer of Altech Autopage’s subscriber base - undertake to communicate job vacancies at the two mobile networks to affected Autopage staff.
Meanwhile, Cell C is expected to forward its job vacancies to identified candidates at Altech Autopage. The Tribunal defines ‘identified candidates’ as Altech Autopage’s affected employees who, in the view of Cell C, are “potentially suitable for the position sought to be filled”. This process has to happen within 12 months after the date of transfer of Altech Autopage’s subscriber base to Cell C.
Other conditions of the deal include that Altron must make offers to redeploy 86 affected Altech Autopage employees to other entities within the Altron Group.
The Competition Tribunal has also tasked Altech Autopage with continuing to make its training initiatives available to all employees for at least a year.
Altech Autopage is further expected to make available an employee assistance programme to affected staff as well as their direct families for three calendar months after the implementation of the mergers.
It’s unclear at this stage about when Autopage could shut down exactly as company representatives were not available for comment at the time of writing.
But last year, Altech Autopage’s former managing director Boyd Chislett said the company was looking to migrate “all three customer bases by the 29th of February”.