Liquid Telecom gets R2.6-billion investment

Liquid Telecom received a $180 million cash injection from U.K. development finance institution CDC Group Plc as Africa’s largest fiber-network operator expands broadband infrastructure across the continent.

The investment will give London-based CDC a stake of almost 10 percent in Liquid, which is majority owned by Zimbabwe’s Econet. The funding will enable Liquid to expand its network in five new countries including Nigeria and Ethiopia, Chief Executive Officer Nic Rudnic said by phone.

“This is a capital intensive business,” Econet founder and majority shareholder, Strive Masiyiwa, said on the same call from London. The plan was to seek a longer term equity partner to back expansion into countries that don’t always offer a quick return on investment, he said.

The deal postpones the need for an initial public offering of Johannesburg-based Liquid, which has about 70,000 kilometers (43,500 miles) of network running from Cape Town to Cairo. However, a long-mooted share sale of the overall Econet group in London remains a possibility, according to Masiyiwa.

“The listing option will always be there and we will follow instructions from the shareholders,” he said. “We are a profitable company and have enough capital and funding for the next few years.”

Econet’s other subsidiaries include Econet Wireless Zimbabwe Ltd., which is listed in Harare and valued at $5.6 billion.

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Liquid Telecom gets R2.6-billion investment