SOUTH AFRICA – Liquid Telecom South Africa, a communications solutions provider, has rebranded to Liquid Intelligent Technologies (LIT) in a strategic repositioning to advance South Africa’s digital future.

In 2018, the group embarked on a journey to adapt its operating model as it started the transition towards becoming Africa’s leading digital services provider.

“The acquisition of the Samrand data centre and the ability to quickly adapt as Covid-19 required innovation in work-from-home capabilities, have shown that Liquid Telecom is in the position to reshape the South African technology industry and to fully realise its market position as a digital service provider of choice for businesses locally,” the company said in a statement.

As Liquid transitioned the business over the past two years, it has added new products and solutions in addition to the connectivity offering, as well as continued providing the open-access network that has resulted in the availability of fifth-generation technology across South Africa.

To ensure operational efficiency and improved service delivery to customers, Liquid Telecom has developed a new operating model to address its technological and structural needs for growth.

“As such, the company needs to develop people and improve organisational maturity that will enable us to operate in our intelligent technology business to generate immediate and sustainable value to our current and future shareholders and exceed our customer expectations to be more competitive in our industry.”

“Our structures, skills and capabilities need to be rapidly developed and augmented to effectively exceed the expectations of our customers,” the group concluded.

Industry speculation suggests that Liquid Telecom South Africa may cut as much as a third of its workforce. It currently employs 864 people.

This announcement comes shortly after a report that the coronavirus pandemic is hampering efforts by Zimbabwean billionaire Strive Masiyiwa to sell a stake in Liquid Telecom.

Masiyiwa is seeking buyers for 20% to 34% of Liquid Telecom for as much as US$600 million, according to four people with direct knowledge of the matter.

He needs the money to repay a US$375-million loan that was backed by Public Investment Corp (PIC), the continent’s largest money manager, they said.

The PIC, which oversees the equivalent of US$135 billion mainly on behalf of South African government workers, is demanding the issue be resolved by the end of August after granting an extension on the payment earlier this year, the people said.

The loan it backed was used to fund a pay-TV venture, which failed last year because Zimbabwe’s economic woes and currency shortages meant the company couldn’t pay suppliers.

The 59-year-old tycoon had pledged shares in Liquid Telecom to the PIC as security for the loan, which had been taken out with Deutsche Bank AG. Masiyiwa was planning to repay the debt from the proceeds of an initial public offering in Liquid Telecom, which was scrapped because of volatile equity markets, the people said.

The founder of Econet, which has interests in mobile-phone network operators and digital-banking operations across the continent, would rather sell part of his 66% stake in Liquid Telecom to avoid surrendering shares in the company at a discount to the PIC, one of the people said.

Masiyiwa hired Goldman Sachs earlier this year to sell the stake but talks with potential investors started unravelling after the COVID-19 outbreak intensified in March, the people said. Buyers wanted more time to assess the economic fallout of lockdowns to contain the virus on Africa’s economies, they said.

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