Tag: Cell C

Cell C posts R5.5-billion loss

By Sibongile Khumalo for News24

Cell C says its latest set of results showed that its turnaround strategy was having a “positive impact in stabilising the business”, although some key performance industry were still down.

CEO Douglas Stevenson says investors were looking forward to a proposed recapitalisation deal aimed at driving revenue growth and profitability.

Net loss narrowed to R5.5 billion for the 2020 financial year, compared to compared to R7.6 billion in the first half of the year.
Cell C, which has battled a severe liquidity crunch, narrowed its net loss to R5.5 billion for the 2020 financial year, compared to R7.6 billion seen in the first half, with the company describing its performance as reflective of a “business in transit”.

The telecommunications operator, which in 2020 defaulted on an interest payment on a $184 million loan, said its latest set of results showed that its turnaround strategy was having a “positive impact in stabilising the business”, although some key performance industry were still down.

Its gross margin declined by 7% and cost optimisation resulted in overall direct expenses being 9% lower at R7 billion, from R7.7 billion in 2019, the annual financial statements released on Tuesday showed. A once-off expenditure of R5.7 billion was incurred due to recapitalisation and the costs associated with network restoration, which the company attributed to its net loss before tax of R5.5 billion.

“Our turnaround strategy has improved our financial performance as a mobile network operator and Cell C is operationally more efficient,” said CEO Douglas Stevenson.

“Over the next three years we will fully transition to roam on partner networks – all with the aim of providing a quality network, innovative value offerings for our customers and ensuring a profitable and sustainable business.”

‘A business in transition’

Despite a challenging period, Cell C managed to lift total subscriber numbers to over 12.5 million, up from 11.7 million in the first half of the year.

In January 2020, Blue Label Telecoms, which is a 45% shareholders in Cell C, announced that the network provider had defaulted on interest and capital repayments related to the respective bilateral loan facilities between Cell C and Nedbank, China Development Bank Corporation, the Development Bank of Southern Africa and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, which were due in January 2020.

“Our results reflect a business in transition,” said CFO Zaf Mahomed.

“We are starting to see the impact of our changes which included a focus on more profitable subscribers and through the reduction in costs a shift to revenue generating activities. The foundations are now in place.”

The financial challenges faced by Cell C has seen Blue Label write off its investment in the firm to zero, but support plans for the company’s turnaround.

Stevenson said the investors were looking forward to “the proposed recapitalisation deal that will provide working capital aimed at driving revenue growth and profitability.”

Total revenue was down by 8% to R13.8 billion, with a notable contribution from the prepaid customer base.

 

Source: MyBroadband

Vodacom has taken over all upgrades, credit vetting and collections for Cell C’s contract customers after they were moved to Vodacom’s network, an industry insider said.

Cell C started to migrate its contract and broadband subscribers to Vodacom’s network in mid-December, a process which was expected to last two months.

The decision took many people by surprise as Cell C is building a “virtual network” in partnership with MTN and has a national roaming agreement with the mobile operator in place.

It was widely speculated that Cell C sold its contract and broadband subscriber base to Vodacom in a deal which involved Comm Equipment Company (CEC).

CEC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Blue Label Telecoms which was founded in 2015 with a contract to supply and finance all devices supplied by Cell C to the market.

Blue Label Telecoms, which owns 45% of Cell C, recently said the business model of this financing arrangement indirectly exposes it to the credit risk of Cell C.

Blue Label Telecoms’ management, however, said it has effectively mitigated this risk through the operational model used and the “very high collateral requirements” which are in place.

As part of this agreement, Blue Label Telecoms and CEC have the right to sell Cell C’s contract customer base in the event of a default by Cell C.

Blue Label and CEC agreement with Cell-C

Considering Cell C’s dismal financial situation and the strange decision to move its contract customers Vodacom and not MTN, it is no surprise that many industry players thought a sale took place.

Cell C, Vodacom, and Blue Label Telecoms have, however, vehemently denied that any sale of subscribers took place.

Instead, Cell C said the migration of its customers to Vodacom forms part of its “network roaming model” which will see it become South Africa’s largest wholesale buyer of network capacity and infrastructure services from Vodacom and MTN.

While Cell C and Vodacom are trying to make the migration look like a simple roaming agreement, many industry players are disputing this.

One industry insider told MyBroadband Vodacom has taken over all upgrades, credit vetting, and collections for Cell C’s contract customers as part of the agreement.

This should not come as a surprise. TechFinancials reported in October 2020 that CEC planned to subcontract Vodacom to handle its credit vetting, call centre, billing, and collections for Cell C’s contract customers.

TechFinancials further reported that after the migration to Vodacom has been completed, Cell C customers will see Vodacom as their mobile provider.

MyBroadband can confirm that this is indeed the case. Instead of showing Cell C as their carrier name, contract subscribers are now shown Vodacom as their provider (see screenshot below).

Cell C contract subscriber home screen

With Vodacom reportedly taking over numerous services for Cell C’s contract subscribers and also serving all their network needs, these subscribers are now close to being Vodacom subscribers.

It is currently not clear if Cell C is still providing any services to its contract subscribers, or whether they are now essentially Vodacom subscribers, albeit unofficially.

MyBroadband asked Cell C for further information about its relationship with Vodacom, but the company would not provide any details.

Instead, it said “these commercial agreements, their existence and their terms are confidential between Cell C and the counter parties to the contract”.

Vodacom would also not answer any questions regarding its relationship, saying it is “contractually precluded from commenting on this”.

 

Source: Jacaranda FM

The Hawks in Gauteng have arrested a second person in connection with a Cell C tender scam worth an estimated R130-million.

Gauteng Hawks spokesperson Ndivhuwo Mulamu says 39-year-old Adriraan Pillay was arrested in Germiston on Friday.

“It is alleged that Pillay and his co-accused, Ismail Adanjee Mohamed, 44-years-old, were both Information Technology (IT) executives at one of the well-known South African mobile network service providers.

“They allegedly colluded with a director of a contracted entity responsible for IT and network service provider, falsely inflated invoices which resulted in an actual loss of over R130 million from 2012 to 2019,” she said.

Adamjee was released on R50 000 bail by the Johannesburg Specialised Crimes Court last month.

Pillay appeared in the Palm Ridge Specialised Commercial Crime Court on Monday where he was also granted R50 000 bail.

Mulamu said the case is postponed to 14 April 2021 where he will be joining his co-accused, Mohamed.

 

Cell C’s head office for rent

Source: MyBroadband

Parts of Cell C’s head office in Midrand, which boasts a customer walk-in centre, an IT centre, warehouse facilities and office space, is for rent.

The Cell C campus was developed by Atterbury, with construction starting in July 2012 after an official sod-turning ceremony with former Cell C CEO Alan Knott-Craig.

It formed part of Atterbury’s commercial development rights for 330 hectares of land north of Sandton, which included the Waterfall Business Estate.

After its completion in 2013, Cell C’s head office soon became a landmark in Gauteng thanks to its excellent visibility from the Buccleuch Interchange.

Atterbury later sold the Cell C campus to the Attacq Property Fund, which has recently put the property, or at least part of the property, up for rent.

The Cell C head office boasts a gross leasable area of 43,890m² and features rehabilitated wetlands and a 1.8km walking trail aimed at encouraging a healthy workforce.

According to two people linked to the lease of the property, potential tenants have the option of renting the full property or only part of it.

There is speculation that Varsity College, which is rapidly expanding, is (or was) one of the parties interested. This could, however, not be confirmed.

Louise Wiseman, MD of Varsity College and IIE MSA, told MyBroadband their campus footprint has grown for a number of years to accommodate their increasing number of students.

Most recently, IIE Varsity College constructed a new state-of-the-art campus at the Newlands Cricket Ground development.

Varsity College is planning to expand the Pretoria campus this year and is considering various options for the envisioned campus expansions in other areas.

Cell C explains its decision
Cell C took occupation of its new campus at the end of 2013 on a 15-year lease, which means the initial agreement is set to expire in 2028.

Should the property be rented to a different company, it means the initial agreement will be terminated well before it was supposed to end.

There is, however, also the potential of sub-leasing part of the campus while Cell C maintains some of the office space.

Cell C told MyBroadband that in response to COVID-19 and the reduction in staff numbers subsequent to the conclusion of the Section 189 process, it is looking at ways to optimise cost and use its resources more efficiently.

The company has also adopted a hybrid remote working model, which has seen a further reduction in the number of staff coming into the office.

It is therefore looking at ways to sublease areas of the campus no longer required or those the company does not foresee being occupied in the short to medium term period going forward.

“All staff will continue to be working on a rotational basis from the campus aligned to the Cell C work from home policy as well as to ensure compliance with COVID-19 protocols,” the company said.

Cell C added that the store and support centre situated on the campus were closed during the end of 2020.

Cell C customers who still visit the head office are assisted at the main campus by on-site internal customer care consultants.

The intention is, however, for customers to use other Cell C retail outlets, like the one at Mall of Africa.

 

By Yasmine Jacobs for IOL

Cell C has started the migration of its 16 million subscribers to MTN’s cellphone tower infrastructure. This comes as the company prepares to switch off its own radio access network.

“From mid-December, our contract and broadband customers will be enabled to roam on a partner network. This change will be beneficial to our customers and ensure a connectivity experience that delivers both quality and value,” said Cell C in a statement released on Wednesday.

Cell C said its customers will be migrated in stages and it expects the transition to be completed by early February 2021.

“You will be alerted via SMS communication when your service will be enabled. This change will not result in any additional charges and your existing terms and conditions will remain in place,” Cell C added.

Customers have been advised to manually activate ’Data roaming’ in the phone settings in a bid to avoid disruptions to you data connectivity.

It’s worth noting that Apple device users’ data roaming will be activated automatically.

Customers still experiencing difficulties after this are encouraged to contact general customer service at 084 135.

According to MyBroadband, this infrastructure sharing strategy will help Cell C to cut down on network investments and forms part of a broader turnaround strategy to get the company out of deep financial woes.

 

Cell C shuts down towers

By Barbara Friedman for EWN

Cell C is reportedly shutting down its network.

However, tech guru Brendon Peterson says it is a little more complicated than that.

Cell C’s statement did not say it was shutting down its network, he notes.

That seems to be where the confusion has come in.

“I know there have been quite a few bits and pieces of news out there saying Cell C is shutting down, but I was able to chat to them directly to get a better understanding of what is going on,” says Peterson.

In fact, Cell C will no longer be operating its own physical infrastructure such as the cellphone towers, and will instead be leasing the equipment from MTN.

So if you are a Cell C customer, you are still going to have service. It is still going to say Cell C. It is just not going to be routed through Cell C towers but rather through MTN towers. That’s it.

How will this benefit Cell C?

Cell C will be freed up from the costly maintenance and repair of towers, says Peterson, which will save money.

Customers will still be able to buy Cell C data and airtime as usual as well as update contracts.

None of that is going to change. And I double-checked with Cell C as that was the biggest concern everyone has got.

Cell C asked for a right of reply following this interview and spoke to Lester Kiewit on Wednesday.

 

Cell C defaults on loans of R3.16bn

By Dineo Faku for IOL

Blue Label yesterday notified its shareholders that troubled Cell C had defaulted on its loans.

The JSE-listed telecoms group, which holds 45% of Cell C, said the country’s third-largest mobile telecoms provider had failed to make payments of capital on its $184million (R3.16billion) note, which was due on Sunday, and interest and capital repayments related to the respective bilateral loan facilities between Cell C and Nedbank, the China Development Bank Corporation, the Development Bank of Southern Africa and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, which were due in January and last month.

Blue Label said note holders were aware that Cell C was working on its liquidity crisis.

“Currently, none of the bilateral loan facilities has been accelerated, as note holders are aware, and support that Cell C is committed to resolving the situation by agreeing to restructure terms with its lenders while it also continues to work pro-actively with all stakeholders to improve its liquidity, debt profile and long-term competitiveness,” said Blue Label.

Cell C said the loan defaults came as no surprise, because its informal debt was at a standstill until its recapitalisation programme was finalised.

“Cell C continues to work pro-actively with all stakeholders to improve its liquidity, debt profile and long-term competitiveness as part of its turnaround strategy,” the company said.

Cell C said its turnaround strategy was focused on ensuring operational efficiencies, restructuring its balance sheet, implementing a revised network strategy and improving overall liquidity.

“While a new recapitalisation is being negotiated, there is an informal debt standstill and debt payments have been suspended,” said the company.

It said that although Cell C’s lenders were entitled to call up the entire debt owed, they had not accelerated debt payments and had held off on taking action in order to facilitate a commercial solution.

“The non-payment is not a surprise to lenders that understand the Cell C turnaround strategy.”

The company said its S&P Global status on certain loan facilities and senior secured bonds remained unchanged at D (default).

Ofentse Dazela, director of pricing research at Africa Analysis, said the default showed that the company’s expanded roaming agreement with MTN, which was touted as some sort of panacea, had not yielded the intended results.

Dazela said the operator continued to navigate a challenging environment and questions about its sustainability were becoming more pronounced by the minute.

By Jan Cronje for Fin24

Mobile operator Cell C has defaulted on an interest payment on a $184m loan (about R2.7bn at current exchange rates) which was due in December 2019, according to a notice from its key shareholder Blue Label Telecoms Limited.

In a statement to shareholders on Tuesday, Blue Label said Cell C had also defaulted on interest and capital repayments related to the respective bilateral loan facilities between Cell C and Nedbank Limited, China Development Bank Corporation, Development Bank of Southern Africa Limited and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Limited, which were due in January 2020.

Blue Label’s share price plunged by almost 12%.

“Currently, none of the bilateral loan facilities have been accelerated as noteholders are aware and support that Cell C is committed to resolving the situation by agreeing to restructuring terms with its lenders while it also continues to work proactively with all stakeholders to improve its liquidity, debt profile and long-term competitiveness,” Blue Label said.

In a brief separate media statement, Cell C said that the suspension of payments was part of wider Cell C initiatives to “improve liquidity and to restructure the company’s balance sheet”.

“Cell C continues to work proactively with all stakeholders to improve its liquidity, debt profile and long-term competitiveness as part of its turnaround strategy,” it said.

Telkom’s recently released results show that fixed-line broadband subscribers – which include ADSL, VDSL, and fibre-to-the-home customers – declined from 974 181 in September 2018 to 781 255 in September 2019.

This means Telkom lost 192 926 fixed broadband subscribers over the last year, which equates to a 19.8% decline in its customer base.

However, the struggling telco has offered to buy Cell C and combine South Africa’s two smallest mobile network operators to better compete against larger rivals.

The bid includes a plan to reduce Cell C’s debt and renegotiate contracts with suppliers, the people said, asking not to be identified because negotiations are ongoing. Telkom wants to take over the management of Cell C’s business.

The approach comes as Cell C explores options with MTN and local investors known as the Buffett Consortium to recapitalise the company, which may include the sale of some of its assets. The two offers will be considered side-by-side as Cell C and its owners try to restructure R9-billion of debt.

This comes after Telkom recently announced that it will become the first national telecommunications operator in South Africa to switch off its legacy 2G network.

The company will terminate 2G services in March 2020, according to CEO Sipho Maseko.

The company has about 250 000 2G-only users left on its network, out of a total subscriber base of 11..5-million, as most have migrated from 2G to 3G.

Will China Mobile buy a struggling Cell C?

According to a recent report by ITWeb, struggling telco Cell C is in possible buy-out talks with China Mobile.

It is rumoured negotiations are underway, and the company told ITWeb that it “is willing to talk to anyone wanting to stabilise the company”.

China Mobile has been pursuing expansion in Africa for some time. A year ago, the world’s largest carrier opened its South African office in Johannesburg.

However, Cell C CEO Douglas Craigie Stevenson reported told ITWeb that Cell C is not considering a merger.

Summary of the situation

  • Last month Cell C reported a loss of R8-billion
  • Top bosses have reiterated that the company is open to any potential buyers
  • Blue Label Telecoms, who owns 45% of the telco, says they do not know whether their shareholding will be maintained or reduced
  • Other Cell C shareholders include 3C Telecommunications with 30%; Net1, which owns 15%; while 10% is held by Cell C management and staff
  • Reasons for Cell C’s debt include freezing jobs, declining revenue, debt management challenges and three downgrades by rating agency Standard & Poor

 

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