Mobile giant Vodafone Group Plc has dismissed as “total speculation” recent media reports that it is in takeover talks with the South African telecoms incumbent Telkom SA Ltd.
Speaking to Computer Business Review, a Vodafone spokesperson rejected a report in the South African Sunday Times newspaper, that Vodafone is poised to make an offer for Telkom. The South African fixed-line operator has also dismissed the speculation.
The speculation follows a meeting between Vodafone’s CEO Arun Sarin, and Telkom’s CEO Papi Molotsane. Both parties insist the meeting was to discuss their 50:50 joint venture in South Africa, Vodacom (Pty) Ltd.
Sarin also reportedly met senior representatives from the deputy president’s office, the trade and industry department, regulatory body Icasa, the SABC, the Public Investment Corporation and IT services group Dimension Data.
Other media reports said Vodafone had informally lifted a restriction on Vodacom operating north of the equator in Africa. Previously, it was thought Vodacom had been hamstrung by an agreement with Vodafone that effectively bans it from operating north of the equator in Africa. The thinking was that this agreement was effectively stifling Vodacom’s expansion into the rest of Africa, where demand is large due to patchy fixed-line infrastructure.
Meanwhile, Newbury, UK-based Vodafone has indicated it is likely to increase the number of executive directors on its board, as it seeks to repair its battered relationship with the City and investors before its AGM on July 25. According to the Financial Times, Sarin has reassured shareholders that the company has no plans to create a US-style board with just two or three executive directors.
According to the UK newspaper, he has indicated that he expects the number of executive directors to increase and acknowledged that Bill Morrow and Paul Donovon, heads of Vodafone’s operations in Europe and emerging markets respectively, could be candidates.