Autopage sale heads back to Competition Commission

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The sale of Altech Autopage’s subscriber base has been referred back to the Competition Commission, putting into question a planned shutdown date. By Gareth van Zyl, NewsAgency

In September, Johannesburg listed Altron announced that the Altech Autopage subscriber base was planned to be sold to MTN, Cell C and Vodacom for R1.46bn. Altech Autopage is a phone service provider that sells the likes of MTN, Cell C and Vodacom contracts

The Competition Commission recommended the mergers be approved without conditions, said the Competition Tribunal in a statement on Wednesday.

Subsequently, the Competition Tribunal had hearings on the Autopage subscriber sale this week.

But the Competition Tribunal has now referred the deal back to the Competition Commission because of concerns raised by a company called Saicon Holdings. Saicon Holdings is said to have agreements with Altech Autopage.

“It became clear during the hearing that the Competition Commission had not spoken to certain clusters of customers that may be affected by the proposed deal,” said the Competition Tribunal in a statement on Wednesday.

The Competition Tribunal further said that the Competition Commission is now tasked with submitting a supplementary report to the tribunal on January 29, 2016. The tribunal hearing with all the parties is then planned for February 9, 2016.

“The Competition Commission was specifically asked to determine whether the issues to be investigated will have any bearings on Cell C. Based on their findings, a separate hearing could be set aside Cell C prior to February 9, 2016,” said the Competition Tribunal.

“The Commission will investigate whether there was prior implementation of the transaction, as alleged by Saicon,” the Competition Tribunal added.

Meanwhile, it’s uncertain whether this move by the Competition Tribunal could delay Altech Autopage’s planned shutdown for early 2016.

Company officials on Thursday had not yet responded to Fin24’s requests for comment at the time of writing.

However, in an interview with Fin24 in November, Altech Autopage’s managing director Boyd Chislett said that the company was eyeing a February 29 2016 shutdown, depending on feedback from regulators. – Fin24

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