Maseko, speaking to media and analysts at Telkom’s 2014 interim results presentation, said the mobile business was “going through a very difficult time” but that Telkom was in “the middle of very sensitive conversations”. He did not expand on the nature of those talks.
“The mobile team, in spite of the issues they have, have done a lot of work responding to the environment,” Maseko said. “In the current confines of the construct, they are not rolling over and saying ‘we’re dead’. They’re responding the way management ought to in a difficult environment.”
Telkom was focusing on “de-risking mobile”, Maseko said several times at the results presentation. “We are in discussions with some parties with regards some possible options,” he said, adding that whatever deal was reached, it should reduce Telkom Mobile’s “capital appetite”.
In the six months ended September 2013, Telkom Mobile lost R773m before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation. That was a deterioration from a loss of R716m in the same period a year ago. Revenue from mobile rose to R926m from R596m a year ago, driven largely by strong data sales and strong demand for smartphones and tablets. Active mobile subscribers rose to 1,6m from 1,5m a year ago.
Separately, Maseko said on Monday that Telkom had not yet decided what action, if any, to take if rival Vodacom formalises its bid for Neotel. “It’s less about what happens if they merge,” he said. “The biggest question is the policy issues. What will be the policy around local-loop unbundling? Will Telkom be forced to give the local loop to all of Vodafone? Would we get reverse local-loop access into all of Vodafone?
“We’d hope that when Telkom does something similar [to the proposed Vodacom/Neotel deal] in the future that no one will have a problem with it.” — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media