Major Cell C shareholder to fight license control transfer

CellSAf, one of Cell C’s oldest shareholders, has objected to the mobile operator’s plan to transfer control of its licenses to Blue Label’s The Prepaid Company.

Last month, Cell C asked ICASA permission to transfer control of its Electronic Communications and spectrum licences to Blue Label’s The Prepaid Company.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) published this application in a government gazette on Wednesday, 6 December 2023.

Cell C wants to transfer control of the individual electronic communications service (I-ECS) and network service (I-ECNS) licenses and its radio frequency spectrum (RFS) licences.

The radio frequency spectrum (RFS) licences include licenses for its 2,100 MHz, 900 MHz, and 1,800 MHz spectrum.

When asked what is behind this application, Cell C said there are regulatory requirements that TPC must fulfil to increase its shareholding in Cell C.

TPC is increasing its shareholding in Cell C by an additional 4.04% to move from a non-controlling holding of 49.5% to a controlling share of 53.5%.

“This entails a filing with the Competition Commission and ICASA for the approval of the transfer of control,” Cell C said.

“This application is a fulfilment of a governance process necessary in the regulatory framework,” it added.

However, regulatory experts highlighted that no rule or regulation requires that licences must be transferred with a change in shareholding.

The application, therefore, raised concerns among many of Cell C’s commercial partners, who are not certain of the real reason for the license control transfer.

Cell C shareholder CellSAf objects

Dr Nomonde Mabuya, director and company secretary of CellSaf

Cell C shareholder CellSAf told Daily Investor that it does not support transferring control of Cell C’s licenses to Blue Label’s The Prepaid Company.

Nomonde Mabuya, director and company secretary of CellSaf, told Daily Investor that they do not support Cell C’s decision.

Mabuya said they had not been consulted about the transfer of control and that the application had happened without their knowledge.

“This licence transfer matter was never discussed with us. The first time we learned about it was when we saw the ICASA government gazette published on 6 December 2023,” she said.

What is particularly concerning for CellSAf is that the matter has been kept from them despite engaging regularly with Blue Label Telecoms executive team members.

Mabuya said they had submitted their objection to Cell C’s planned licence control transfer to ICASA through their legal team on 29 December 2023.

She said they are concerned that Blue Label is stripping other shareholders of Cell C’s key strategic assets. This includes the transfer of control of its spectrum license.

Daily Investor also asked other Cell C shareholders whether they support Cell C’s plan to transfer control of its licenses to Blue Label’s The Prepaid Company.

Nedbank, a substantial Cell C shareholder, told Daily Investor that it could not comment at this time due to client confidentiality agreements.

Two of the other significant shareholders – Lesaka/Net1 and Gramercy – did not provide feedback by the time of publication.


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