Vodafone has confirmed it is to buy an additional 15 percent stake in Vodacom, the South African mobile operator it jointly owns with regional fixed-line player Telkom. Vodafone is to pay Telkom ZAR22.5 billion (US$2.3 billion), less debt, for the stake that will bring its interest in Vodacom to 65 percent. Vodacom – South Africa’s largest mobile operator – will be listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and the remaining 35 percent of the operator will be demerged by Telkom to its shareholders. The deal is expected to be completed in the first half of 2009.

In a statement, Vodafone noted that as well as expansion in South Africa, the Vodacom acquisition also gives it access to “a portfolio of growing operations; the number one operator in Tanzania, Lesotho and the Democratic Republic of Congo and the number two operator in Mozambique.” The move follows its US$900 million acquisition of a 70 percent stake in Ghana Telecom in July and a recent move into Kenya (via its 35 percent stake in Safaricom). Reuters notes that Telkom does not plan on launching its own mobile network in South Africa to compete with Vodacom, but is seeking a roaming agreement with an existing operator that would allow Telkom customers to make mobile phone calls by piggybacking on another company’s network. South Africa’s Minister of Communications Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri said the sale of Vodacom would have a positive impact on the country. “This transaction represents one of South Africa’s largest recent foreign direct investments and signals Vodafone’s confidence in the future of our country. Furthermore, it enables Telkom to speed up its deployment of enhanced, fixed and mobile services to South Africans. We are confident that this transaction is beneficial to the nation, as well as to Vodacom and Telkom, and look forward to them entrenching their positions as communications champions across the African continent.”