Neotel for sale – here are the interested companies

Neotel is in acquisition talks, this time with Seacom and Econet Wireless, the parent of Liquid Telecom, industry sources have told MyBroadband.

This comes after a merger between Vodacom and Neotel collapsed, with Vodacom citing “regulatory complexities”.

Vodacom’s competitors raised objections to the Competition Commission, arguing that gaining access to Neotel’s spectrum through the deal would have put Vodacom at an unfair advantage.

Uphill battle for Vodacom

In response, Vodacom said it would drop plans to acquire Neotel’s spectrum as part of the deal.

MTN, Telkom, and Cell C then went on to appeal a ruling by ICASA that would allow Vodacom to take control of Neotel’s telecommunications licenses.

The North Gauteng High Court ruled in favour of the appeal, overturning Icasa’s decision and denying Vodacom the ability to take control of Neotel’s licences.

Vodacom’s bid was also hampered when Neotel’s CEO Sunil Joshi and chief financial officer Steven Whiley stepped down, after the pair were placed on special leave following R100 million in questionable payments to a company called Homix.

Shortly after the ruling, Vodacom announced it was no longer buying Neotel.

Fresh suitors

Speculation soon emerged that Neotel would entertain new suitors, and industry sources have revealed that Seacom and Econet Wireless are among those courting the company.

Both companies have sent delegations to International Telecoms Week in Chicago, where Neotel’s majority shareholder, Tata Communications, is a headline sponsor.

“Neotel has no comment on this matter at this time,” the company’s board said in a statement. “Neotel prefers not to comment on market speculation.”

Seacom and Econet subsidiary Liquid Telecom were asked to comment on the acquisition talks, but did not provide feedback by the time of publication.

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Neotel for sale – here are the interested companies