INVESTMENT

South Africa: Mweb Buys Afsat Giving Firm Foothold in Africa

MWEB, a subsidiary of South African media and communications conglomerate Naspers has bought satellite data transmission services company Afsat communications. This acquisition gives the company a foothold in 26 African countries making it the biggest satellite-based Internet Service Provider (ISP) on the continent.

MWEB, the Internet solutions arm of Naspers - the company that also owns Multichoice Africa and popular magazine arm Media 24 - said it had bought Afsat including its subsidiaries in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Nigeria. Employees at the company's Kenya offices denied knowledge of any such sale.

In Kenya, Afsat is known for its satellite Internet connectivity solutions to both residential and business customers. It also supplies corporate and state owned customers with reliable and secure corporate data network solutions. This service is provided through VSAT connectivity using the popular iWay brand, which has its regional headquarters in Kenya.

Afsat serves the Kenyan market through a distributor network of ISP's such as Callkey Networks and Virtualsat. It provides last mile connectivity to remote locations such as Lokichoggio, Mandera, Lamu, Homa Bay, Garissa, Dadaab, Wajir and Namanga but also has a large number of VSATs in Nairobi. There are over 485 iWay VSAT terminals in Kenya.

In a press statement released yesterday, MWEB said it had completed the acquisition process and would be taking over the operations of Afsat across Africa.

iWay services are available in over 26 countries in Africa, and its partnership network currently consists of 32 distributors with four subsidiaries in East Africa and Nigeria.

The Kenyan operation is 14 years old, but only started operations four years ago after a ten year wait for a VSAT network operators license.

The acquisition extends MWEB Africa's representation on the continent from 16 to 26 countries. MWEB Africa has subsidiaries in Namibia, Zimbabwe and Nigeria, and is a division of Multichoice Africa Limited. It was established in 1999 to service the markets in the rest of Africa.

The acquisition significantly strengthens MWEB's African presence, making it one of the biggest providers of Internet connectivity services, with more representation and clients than any other service provider on the continent.

"The AFSAT iWay service is a perfect fit with our current MWEB VSAT service. The AFSAT platform is the leading satellite data service in Africa and will enable us to offer our customers in these markets a high quality, reliable and flexible service," said Harry Aucamp CEO of MWEB Africa. Of additional benefit to MWEB customers will be the various cross-border connectivity and facilities linking to both the USA and Europe.

News of the acquisition came just days after South African media erroneously claimed that Kenyan infrastructure provider KDN had been bought by Altech, another South African firm.

(Business Daily (Nairobi), 17 October 2007)

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