Blue Label Telecoms chairman Larry Nestadt is on a spending spree. The businessman, whose achievements include co-founding Investec Bank, has acquired millions of rand worth of shares in the company in recent weeks as its stock price continued to plumb levels last seen a decade ago.
Blue Label, whose market value has fallen precipitously since it concluded the acquisition of a 45% stake in Cell C for R5.5-billion last year, said on Tuesday that Nestadt bought nearly R1-million of its shares on 19 and 22 October. The shares were acquired through the LM Nestadt Trust at an average of just below R5/share.
This comes on top of even more significant purchases by his trust in recent weeks.
On 8 October, the chairman — who serves in a nonexecutive capacity — bought R1.1-million worth of shares at an average of R5.59/share. That was followed on 9 October by another R1.1-million purchase at R5.59/share and a further R546 000 at R5.46/share on 10 October.
Prior to those purchases, the LM Nestadt Trust acquired R5.5-million worth of shares at an average of R6.90 apiece.
In his chairman’s report in Blue Label’s annual report, released earlier this month, Nestadt said he and the board were “naturally concerned about the decline of the share price, which we believe is largely attributable to uncertainty with respect to Cell C’s turnaround strategy, current debt levels and requirements for further funding”.
“These concerns will be largely negated on the proviso that Cell C delivers on its business plan,” he wrote. “In this regard, it is our intention to monitor and assist on a diligent basis and to communicate the results thereof on a more detailed basis going forward.”
“We trust that our improved Cell C disclosure will build greater confidence in support of our strategy to ensure positive cash-flow generation and in turn enhance the core business of Blue Label.”
Since the beginning of the year, Blue Label has shed two-thirds of its value, apparently largely on investor concern about Cell C’s prospects. Its market capitalisation of R4.7-billion is now less than the company paid for 45% of Cell C. In the past 12 months, the share price is down 70.5%. It’s performance over three years and five years isn’t much better — falling 57.2% and 42.9% respectively. It is now trading below its listing price in 2007.
In his chairman’s report, Nestadt said the past year was defined by Blue Label’s acquisitions of the stake in Cell C as well as 100% of 3G Mobile and 60% of Airvantage. In total, the company spent more than R7.5-billion on these deals, of which R3.9 billion was funded through the issuing of 272 million new shares.
“In considering the merits of these acquisitions, the board debated whether each company met our acquisition criteria, which include strategic fit, accretiveness to earnings, defensive positioning, and new products and channels”.
“The acquisition of Cell C was both of a defensive nature and created an opportunity for earnings growth,” he said. “The acquisition was defensive in that it protects Blue Label from possible disintermediation by the mobile network operators, and earnings enhancing in that we can assist in turning the company around through continuing capital restructure and executing their strategic objectives.”
He said both the 3G and Airvantage acquisitions will be earnings accretive for Blue Label. “Not only will these acquisitions assist in the growth of Cell C, but they will also benefit the core Blue Label distribution business and add first-class skills and technologies to our group.”
The acquisitions added “valuable new skills and talent to the group, and we now intend to maximise these both vertically and horizontally to extract value for the business”.
“Bedding down processes, systems and platforms in conjunction with new technologies and skill sets will be the group’s priority in the 2019 financial year.” — © 2018 NewsCentral Media