Vodacom to expand across Africa

Vodacom chief executive Shameel Joosub.(Gallo)

Vodacom chief executive Shameel Joosub.(Gallo)

It seeks to bring data services and smartphones to new markets.

The company will look to enter the countries by acquiring local operators, chief executive Shameel Joosub said in an interview after a full-year earnings presentation.

He declined to identify the target nations.

"We've cracked the African model," Joosub said at the company's Johannesburg headquarters.

"Our formula is working. We're a lot more confident today in terms of accessing new markets and pursuing those opportunities."

Vodacom is expanding its data services in Africa to take advantage of increasing demand for smartphones. The company has operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Mozambique and Lesotho as well as South Africa.

Revenue grew 11% in international markets in the year through March, compared with 2.9% in South Africa, the company said today.

Opportunities in Africa
The company is looking at acquisitions in African countries with a population of more than 10-million and with high gross domestic product growth, low mobile phone penetration and a stable political situation, Joosub said.

Two or three deals "in the next two years would be great," he said in the interview.

"There are some good opportunities out there and we are actively pursuing it. We hope to be able to add some acquisitions this year."

Ethiopia Interest Telma Group, the biggest telephone company in the island nation of Madagascar, is seeking buyers, two people familiar with the matter said in February.

Joosub declined to comment on whether Vodacom is interested in Telma.
Ethiopia is a market where Vodacom would like to be as it is largely free of operators and mobile phone usage is low, the chief executive said.

He declined to say whether the country is among those targeted before 2015.

"We are all interested in Ethiopia," Joosub said. "You'd be crazy not be."

Ethiopia, which has a population of about 89-million, is among the most under-penetrated wireless markets in Africa.

About 17% of the population had a mobile phone in 2011, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That compares with 117% in Gabon and 65% in Kenya.

"Ethiopia has a big population that's under penetrated in terms of mobile phones and could be a key player in the African growth story," Aadil Omar, an analyst for Macquarie, said by phone.

"If mobile money takes off there, alongside other African countries, you could have a really strong African business." – Bloomberg

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