Vodacom cautious over Neotel deal approval

Telecoms

Cape Town - Vodacom has expressed cautious welcome over one regulator's approval of its planned bid to buy Neotel.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) earlier this week gave Vodacom the green light to buy Neotel for R7bn.

But the regulator's word may not be the final say on the matter as the Competition Commission is responding to requests from competitors that the Neotel tie-up may not be in the public interest.

"We are pleased to receive approval for the transaction.  We will work with Icasa to finalise the conditions of the approval," Vodacom spokesperson Richard Boorman told Fin24.

Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub has previously suggested that the scrutiny of the deal as a result of competitor pressure was not appropriate.

"The deal will not distort competition. Icasa is here to protect consumers - not to protect competitors from competition," he said at an Icasa hearing into the deal recently.

In SA, Vodacom has around 10 000 base stations and senior rival MTN about 6 000. Despite that, both companies are actively looking to push higher speed long term evolution (LTE) networks by re-farming existing spectrum.

Both MTN and Cell C object to the deal on the basis that it would lock down the South African market for Vodacom at the expense of competition and ultimately harm consumers by driving prices up.

Source: Fin24 17 June 2015