Blue Label makes R4bn bid for 35% Cell C stake

Deal will reduce network operator’s net debt to R8 billion.

Blue Label Telecoms made an offer to buy a 35% stake in Cell C for R4 billion ($263 million) to expand the network of South Africa’s third biggest mobile-phone company and reduce the target company’s debt.

As part of the proposed deal, Cell C management will offer R2.5 billion for a 30% stake on behalf of employees, Johannesburg-based Cell C said in a statement on Thursday. 3C Telecommunications, a unit of Cell C majority owner Oger Telecom, would retain a 35% stake. Blue Telecom’s bid values Cell C at about R11.4 billion, excluding debt, or an enterprise value of R19.4 billion.

“It made a lot of sense to get involved in an asset that has really started to gain traction,” Mark Levy, co-chief executive officer of Blue Label, said in an interview. “The business model and the assumptions that they have created are sound.”

Blue Label shares fell as much as 7.4%, the most in a year, and traded 5.8% lower at R10.17 at the close in Johannesburg. That values the company at R6.9 billion.

Cell C trails Vodacom Group and MTN Group in terms of customer numbers in Africa’s most industrialized economy and faces further pressure as the former strengthens its position with the acquisition of Internet provider Neotel Cell C abandoned talks with Telkom last month after the landline operator and Dubai-based Oger couldn’t agree to a price.

The deal will reduce Cell C’s net debt to a maximum of 8 billion rand, with the goal of further reduction over the next 12 months.

“We’ve been working very, very closely on finding a way to recapitalize and restructure our debt,” Cell C CEO Jose Dos Santos said in an interview at his Johannesburg headquarters. “Any further capex that we need for at least the next three years will be self-funded and won’t require any further investment from the shareholders.”

©2015 Bloomberg News

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