There have been question marks over the fate of Cell C in South Africa and Orange Niger for a while. Now various news outlets are predicting sales for the two troubled operators.
Rival operator MTN is said to have shown interest in acquiring Cell C, potentially joining a list of suitors that includes another major South African operator, Telkom (not for the first time; Telkom made a takeover attempt in 2017), as well as China Mobile. The Chinese giant has been in discussions with Cell C about a takeover since earlier this month, according to local press reports.
Godfrey Motsa, the CEO of MTN, talking recently to the local financial newspaper Business Reports, made it clear that a Cell C collapse would be undesirable for many reasons, including job losses both for Cell C’s own employees and for its suppliers. These would no doubt be even more unwelcome at a time of very high unemployment in South Africa. He also cited a significant effect on the broader South African economy of a Cell C collapse in the form of tax losses.
Cell C’s problems are certainly far from negligible. Business Report suggested that the operator’s current debt is over $600 million.
Another major name is up for sale further west as French group Orange announced plans to sell its business in Niger. Discussions are apparently under way with a potential buyer to settle Orange Niger’s debts and unpaid taxes.