Telkom Said to Consider $1 Billion Bid for South Africa's Cell C
24 February 2017
Telkom SA SOC Ltd. is considering a bid of as much as $1 billion for South African wireless operator Cell C Pty Ltd., which has missed debt payments and is trying to complete a recapitalization, 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 Ltd. agreed to buy a 45 percent stake in Cell C last year, but the deal has yet to be completed a week before the end-February deadline.
“The Cell C recapitalization remains on track and is supported by the equity investors as well as the existing lenders to the business,” Karin Fourie, a spokeswoman for Cell C, said by e-mail 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.
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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 Ltd. and MTN Group Ltd. The Pretoria-based company, about 39 percent owned by the South African government, held talks with Cell C’s owner Oger Telecom Ltd. in 2015 about buying the carrier but failed to agree 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 recapitalize its debt. That deal is opposed by CellSAf, a Cell C minority investor, last year filed a legal claim to block Blue Label’s bid, saying it would unfairly dilute its shareholding.