New Neotel owners Liquid Telecom and Royal Bafokeng Holdings (RBH) have moved quickly to rebrand the local telecommunications operator, ditching its trademark orange colour in favour of a blue and pink motif.
Liquid and RBH have acquired Neotel in a R6,5bn deal that closed on Friday. India’s Tata Communications previously controlled the company. Liquid now holds 70% of Neotel, with RBH holding the remaining 30%.
The new owners have promised to pump billions of rand into the company, investing in new data centres, wireless broadband networks and fibre infrastructure. (TechCentral will publish a detailed interview with Rudnick, in which he set out Liquid’s plans for Neotel, on Sunday.)
The Neotel deal gives the Econet Group-controlled Liquid Telecom its first significant presence in South Africa. Econet is controlled by Zimbabwean businessman Strive Masiyiwa. Liquid operates in 15 markets across Africa.
Neotel will now go to market as “Neotel Liquid Telecom”. A first priority will be integrating the two companies’ networks to ensure Neotel and Liquid customers have access to a “seamless” network across the 15 markets.
“The change in the brand is intended to not just be a change of flag, but to reflect the change in the network that is going to occur very soon now that the transaction has closed,” Rudnick said.
He said the new shareholders have already recapitalised Neotel, putting it in a strong position to invest in its network.
Neotel was licensed in the mid-2000s as South Africa’s second network operator (SNO) to break Telkom’s monopoly. But Rudnick said its SNO role “was part of the problem, not part of the solution”.
“I don’t see the role of Neotel to replicate what is already in the market, whether that is from Telkom or anyone else,” he said. “In telecoms and technology, our objective is not to follow; our aim is to lead.”
Liquid will appoint a new CEO for Neotel in the coming week. It’s already identified a candidate with both African and international telecoms experience, but Rudnick declined to name him until a formal announcement is made.
“The CEO, when he arrives, will bring a completely fresh look at the way the company operates and the services that it has. Part of that is so that Neotel can become a leader in the provision of technology, as opposed to being second, a second network. We are going to be first in technology provision, not the replicator as number two,” he said. — © 2017 NewsCentral Media
- More on Sunday