Telkom considers $1bn bid for Cell C - sources

2017-02-21 19:52 - Loni Prinsloo and Renee Bonorchis, Bloomberg News
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Cell C may be sold as the majority shareholder looks to offload its shares. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

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Johannesburg - Telkom is considering a bid of as much as $1bn (R13.16bn) for wireless operator Cell C, which has missed debt payments and is trying to complete a recapitalisation, according to three people familiar with matter.

Investment banks are also approaching other potential bidders with the firepower to take on the deal, said two of the people, who asked not to be identified as the matter is private. Blue Label Telecoms agreed to buy a 45% stake in Cell C last year, but the deal has yet to be completed a week before the end-February deadline.

“The Cell C recapitalisation remains on track and is supported by the equity investors as well as the existing lenders to the business,” Karin Fourie, a spokesperson for Cell C, said by email on Tuesday. “All lenders have expressed their support for this process, which remains ongoing.”

There’s no certainty that Telkom will make an offer. Representatives for Telkom and Blue Label declined to comment.

For Telkom, the former state landline monopoly, buying Cell C would help expand its mobile operations and better compete with South African market leaders Vodacom Group and MTN Group.

Telkom, about 39% owned by the South African government, held talks with Cell C’s owner Oger Telecom in 2015 about buying the carrier but failed to agree on a price. Telkom has been cutting jobs and investing in broadband and mobile to counter falling demand for landline services.

Johannesburg-based Blue Label planned to expand Cell C’s network and recapitalise its debt. That deal is opposed by CellSAf, a Cell C minority investor, which last year filed a legal claim to block Blue Label’s bid, saying it would unfairly dilute its shareholding.

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