Shares in mobile operator, Vodacom, dipped below R100 for the first time in more than three months on Friday (18 May), amid a potential crisis for its operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Having peaked at just over R110 a share on the JSE at the beginning of April, shares in the group have declined more than 10%, trading R2.75 or 2.68% lower to R99.75 in the afternoon session on the local bourse.
Adding to the group’s woes, the all-share index declined 1.08% on Friday, in line with its global counterparts amid increased risk aversion arising from trouble in the Eurozone.
Bloomberg reported that Vodacom may lose its entire shareholding in a wireless unit in the DRC, after a court ordered the confiscated stock be auctioned in June if a $21 million dispute with a consultant wasn’t settled.
The court issued an order on 14 May to auction Vodacom’s 510,000 shares in its 51% held Vodacom Congo SPRL unit, in order to enforce its January judgment that Vodacom pay Moto Mabanga’s Namemco Energy a $21 million consulting fee.
It said in the announcement that “in the case of failure of payment of the amount due to the plaintiff,” it would continue with a sale of the seized shares on 3 June.
Mabanga started legal proceedings against Vodacom in 2011, seeking a $40.8 million success fee for work done during 2007 and 2008.
On Thursday, investors also reacted negatively to a price war waged between Vodacom and Cell C, after the former announced the launch of its Freedom 99 prepaid tariff – offering calls to all networks at 99 cents per minute, mere minutes before Cell C said it had also reduced its prepaid call rates to 99 cents.
Vodacom is also expected to announce its annual results on Monday; something which would also be on the minds of investors.
A local dealer noted that investors were reacting to the negative news out of Congo, adding that the price war would be something all operators would need to factor in going forward. “This is likely to be a trend that continues for the foreseeable future,” he said.
In Other tech telecoms stocks, MTN waivered R1.89 or 1.41% to R132.56, while Telkom handed back its Thursday gains, dropping 63 cents or 2.58% to R23.82.