South African mobile operator Cell C is preparing to conclude the sale of its 50% stake in Virgin Mobile South Africa, TechCentral reports. Quoting a ‘well-placed industry source’ the South African technology website suggests that the deal is ‘all but done’. Virgin South Africa began life in 2006, as an equal joint venture between Cell C and Richard Branson’s Virgin Group.
It is not known who is buying the Cell C stake. Early speculation centred on pre-paid airtime provider Blue Label Telecoms. However, Blue Label co-CEO Brett Levy has said that despite initial talks, his company has no plans to purchase Cell C’s stake. New rumours suggest that a local cellular handset distributor could be close to sealing a deal to purchase the stake.
Virgin Mobile will continue to use Cell C’s network even if a sale goes ahead, and hopes to utilise the 3G network the cellco is rolling out. Although Virgin Mobile had a difficult introduction to the South African cellco market, marketing director Jonathan Newman insists that the company has turned a corner, adding that the company now has 300,000 subscribers, 90% of whom are on pre-paid contracts.