SOUTH AFRICAN WIRELESS BROADBAND OPERATOR WBS SHARES SOLD TO LOCAL INVESTOR

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

Forty percent of the shares in iBurst's parent company, Wireless Business Solutions (WBS), have changed hands, to a local company headed by Alan Knott-Craig Jr.

The 40% shares, belonging to US-based gaming company, Gtech, are being sold to private investment holding company Blue Label Investment, for an unspecified amount.

As a result of the transaction, Alan Knott-Craig Jr, son of Vodacom CEO Alan Knott-Craig Sr and executive director of Richmark, has been appointed as WBS managing director.

The Richmark Group has several ICT-related subsidiaries and Blue Label holds shares in the group.

Thami Mtshali will retain his position as CEO. Jacki Mpondo-Hendriks, media spokesperson for WBS, has confirmed the company has undergone the shareholder change. WBS, a black empowered company, is best known for its iBurst offering. Among other contracts, iBurst provides SA's national lottery system with a mobile data communication network, a focus similar to that of outgoing shareholder GTech.

However, the incoming shareholder has varied interests in the cellular and telecoms industry, which could signify an increasing focus for WBS on the provision of broadband to the wider market.

Despite the opportunities that are likely to be presented as a result of the WBS/Blue Label partnership, initial market interest is likely to focus on collaboration that could result from the familial ties between Knott-Craig Jr and his father.

Nevertheless, Blue Label Investment COO Gary Kaplan says the father-son combination does not share business interests – a statement reiterated by Mpondo-Hendriks, as well as the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA), which has approved the deal in principle.

Mpondo-Hendriks has said that a full statement will be made to the market and media only once the ICASA approval has been formalised. This is expected to take place late next week. In this briefing the company will share its new structure, direction and initiatives.

http://www.itweb.co.za/sections/business/2006/0602161620.asp?
S=All%20Africa%20News&A=AFN&O=FPLEAD