Cell C concerned about silence on Vodacom/Neotel acquisition


Mobile operator Cell C has challenged the communications regulator, Icasa, over its apparent approval of an R7bn deal that will see Vodacom acquire Neotel. It’s issued a press statement this afternoon citing press reports that the deal was passed through on Monday, following a lack of official communication from the regulator on the subject.

Some reports had suggested that Icasa was planning to hold a press conference yesterday, in which it would outline conditions to its approval.

The full statement from Cell C is below. At a recent financial briefing, CEO Jose dos Santos vowed to challenge Icasa in the courts if it gave Vodacom permission to purchase Neotel, which would see the mobile network acquire not just a B2B networking business, but also the valuable spectrum licences which Neotel holds for LTE frequencies.

Cell C is concerned that four days since the apparent approval of the Vodacom-Neotel transaction, ICASA has not published its decision nor explained the reasons for this decision. With the exception of comments attributed to the outgoing chairman, Dr. Stephen Mncube in a news report, ICASA has remained mum on the approval of this transaction.

Considering the magnitude of such a decision and potential negative impact on the industry, market structure and economy, Cell C is concerned by ICASA’s silence on the matter.  Furthermore, there has been no mention of the most contentious issue raised by various industry stakeholders, namely the ownership and transfer of spectrum.

The only confirmation Cell C has received to date is in the form of a letter from Neotel informing Cell C of ICASA’s approval and the “short public consultation” that is pending on the conditions.

Cell C has written to the authority seeking formal confirmation and an explanation of its decision.

In written submissions and at the public hearings held in 2015 the telecommunications operators overwhelmingly rejected the proposal from Vodacom and Neotel, as it will be detrimental to the industry and consumers.

Cell C will remain steadfast in its opposition to this merger and will use any and all legal avenues to do so.

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