Vodacom pushes to have more control over distribution

JOHANNESBURG (04/05/2004) - Vodacom International Ltd. has finalized the acquisition of a 51 percent equity stake in one of its exclusive service providers, Smartphone.

The acquisition of Smartphone, which is currently trading as Smartcall, follows the long-awaited South Africa Competition Commission approval of the transaction.

The acquisition is in line with the mobile operator's strategy to gain control of its distribution chain. Smartcall is focused only on the prepaid market and had up to 2.7 million registered prepaid subscribers at the effective date of acquisition -- March 1.

Vodacom incorporates mobile network operators in SA (South Africa), Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Lesotho. It has also recently launched a service in Mozambique.

In its attempt to spread across the continent, the group is also currently involved in a legal battle to acquire an equity stake in Econet Wireless Nigeria Limited (EWL).

Both companies last week appeared before the Federal High Court in Lagos as part of an ongoing court case in which Econet Wireless International seeks -- among other things -- an order preventing the allotment of its shares to Vodacom.

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