South Africa’s Vodacom had appointed investment bank Rothschild to explore options for its unit in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a signal it could sell the business.
South Africa’s largest mobile operator, majority-owned by Britain’s Vodafone, is in a long-running dispute in the DRC over fees from a joint venture. Vodacom and its partner, Congolese Wireless Network (CWN), are in arbitration.
CWN owns 49% of the venture and would likely charge Vodacom a premium to buy it out.
According to previous statements by CWN chairman Alieu Conteh, Vodacom Congo was worth more than $1.5 billion, a valuation Vodacom described as ludicrous, without offering an alternative figure. He would sell for the right price, but Vodacom has a conservative track record when it comes to deals.
Neither has Vodacom shown an interest in Egypt’s Orascom Telecom assets.
Majority owner Vodafone itself is currently engaged in a strategic review and has disposed of assets it does not control, including interests in Japanese carrier SoftBank and a stake in China Mobile.
According to Vodacom spokesman, it’s difficult to predict how long the process is going to take, but obviously they would like to resolve the issues they have in the DRC as quickly as possible.