By Alois Vinga
ECONET Group has announced that it was selling its entire 51 percent stake in Liquid Telecom in a move meant to create an independent internet services provider.
In a statement, Econet Group founder, Strive Masiyiwa has said he is considering a separate listing next year for subsidiary Liquid Telecom which could be one of the largest operator of fibre and business satellite services on the African continent.
The decision has been prompted by numerous offers made by potential investors.
“We have received several unsolicited offers for Liquid, but we want it to remain an independent access provider for Internet in Africa. We are going to raise more capital in market and strengthen its market leadership in this vital space,” he said.
The group has since appointed advisors for the potential listing of Liquid at one of the major European exchanges and the deal will be finalised by early next year.
Liquid Telecom has so far built a fibre optic network that spans 15 African countries from South Africa, all the way to the border of South Sudan in East Africa. It now wants to move into West Africa.
Masiyiwa said while Liquid Telecom has a presence in satellite and payment systems in West Africa, the terrestrial fibre side was missing.
“We want to correct that, as our customers must have a seamless service from East to West, North to South. It has always been our core mission. We currently occupy the unique position of being the only company with a network that spans many different countries, as an independent access provider,” he said in a statement.
He said that current demand for its fibre network meant it will build an additional 20,000 km in the next three years.
The continent’s leading banks, retail and mining groups are also using Liquid increasingly to link up their own pan-African business operations.
More recently, Liquid has turned its attention to building what it calls a ‘Content Delivery Network’ (Liquid CDN) for the growing number of companies providing video entertainment services including streaming, that require high capacity bandwidth.
Liquid Telecom has managed to position itself as an open access fibre and satellite infrastructure provider used by almost all the major mobile network providers in Africa.
Its customers include Airtel Africa, MTN, Orange, Tigo, and Vodafone, as well as its own sister company Econet Wireless.
Last week the company signed an agreement with Bharti Airtel to use its existing network, as well as build additional infrastructure.