Telecom Players Focus on Africa
Shows the Desire
To Tap Into Growth
June 5, 2008; Page B5
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Amid a global scramble for new subscribers, telecommunications operators and investors are taking a sudden shine to a place with lots of potential customers: Africa.
In the latest show of interest, private-equity firms Apax Partners Worldwide LLP, Madison Dearborn Partners LLC and TA Associates Inc. agreed to buy a €1.1 billion ($1.7 billion) stake in Weather Investments, a holding company owned by Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris. Among other assets, Weather holds a controlling stake in Orascom Telecom Holding SAE, one of the biggest telecom outfits in subscriber terms in Africa and the Middle East.
That continued a flurry of deal-making. On Monday, news broke that South African businessman Tokyo Sexwale is leading a consortium, including U.S. hedge fund Och-Ziff Capital Management LLC, exploring an acquisition of Telkom SA Ltd., the continent's largest fixed-line operator in terms of subscribers and revenue. The same day, Vodafone Group PLC, the world's largest mobile operator in revenue terms, said it wanted to boost its stake in a joint mobile-phone venture with Telkom. Last month, an Indian suitor walked away from merger talks with Africa's largest mobile carrier, MTN Group Ltd., only to be replaced by another Indian company.
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