Vodacom to face Icasa, Cosatu in court

Cellphone giant Vodacom will face telecommunications regulator the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) in the High Court in Pretoria at 10am on Sunday.

“We have been served an urgent application by Cosatu and Icasa to interdict the Vodacom listing on Monday,” Vodacom said in a statement.

“We are opposing,” it added.

This followed the announcement on Friday by Icasa that telecoms group Telkom SA needed its approval to dispose of its Vodacom shares to the UK’s Vodafone.

The deal involves ending the joint shareholding in Vodacom by Telkom and Vodafone.

The R22,5-billion transaction allows Vodafone to take an additional stake of 15% in Vodacom, with the remainder of the stake being unbundled.

Vodacom was expected to list on the JSE on May 4, but this was postponed due to a delay in obtaining all necessary regulatory approvals.

The listing was then set down for May 18.

Meanwhile, Cosatu applied to the High Court in Pretoria on May 5 to halt the deal between Telkom and Vodafone, so Icasa’s role in the transaction could be probed.

“Cosatu is seeking an order reviewing and setting aside Icasa’s decision of April 16 2009 to the effect that its approval was not required in respect of the Telkom/Vodafone share transaction,” Zwelinzima Vavi said at the time.

“There is public interest in the Vodafone/Telkom share transaction in that Telkom’s 50% interest in Vodacom constitutes, in Cosatu’s view, a public asset and that the South African government would no longer have an interest in South Africa’s largest mobile operator,” Vavi added.

However, on Friday Icasa said although it had in April 2009 decided that the Vodacom-Vodafone transaction did not require its prior approval, it had changed its mind.

It had also noted that Cosatu had filed court papers asking for its decision to be set aside.

“Whereas the Authority awaits the court outcome on its decision, it is concerned that the court proceedings will only commence long after the transaction has taken place,” it said.

Icasa added that it believed a transaction of this nature should take place in an environment conducive to regulatory certainty.

The regulatory body said that after careful consideration, it had decided to rescind its previous decision.

“In the interest of transparency, the authority finds it appropriate that a public process be followed to allow all interested parties to be heard,” Icasa said.

It added that public hearings would take place by mid-June 2009.—Sapa