Vodacom Chief Uys Predicts Company Won’t Lose Congo Stake

Vodacom Group Ltd., the largest provider of mobile-phone services to South Africans, is confident it will keep its stake in a Democratic Republic of Congo unit as it’s pursuing court processes.

“We’re not at all worried about losing our shares in Vodacom Congo,” Chief Executive Officer Pieter Uys said in an interview at Vodacom’s Johannesburg head office today. “The auction may not even go ahead.”

A commercial court, based in the Congolese capital Kinshasa, issued an order on May 14 to sell by public auction Vodacom’s 510,000 shares in its 51-percent held Vodacom Congo SPRL unit to enforce a Jan. 25 judgment that Vodacom pay Moto Mabanga’s Namemco Energy (Pty) Ltd. a $21 million consulting fee. Vodacom has denied owing this amount. The auction is scheduled for June 3, according to court papers.

“We have three separate legal processes going at the highest level of the judicial system to challenge that decision,” said Uys. Another two “processes are ongoing outside the judiciary system,” said Uys, declining to comment further as the matter “is very sensitive” at this stage.

Vodacom’s shares rose 3.1 percent to 103.10 rand at the stock market’s close in Johannesburg. The stock has advanced 16 percent this year.

Consulting Work

Vodacom, controlled by Newbury, England-based Vodafone Group Plc, is not trying to “short-circuit” the nation’s judicial system by having unidentified processes outside the court, said Uys. “We just want to be heard,” said Uys. “We want a fair hearing, someone to listen to our appeals for justice.” In the event that Vodacom legally owes Mabanga the money, it will “happily pay,” he said.

Mabanga sued last year, seeking a $40.8 million success fee for work done during 2007 and 2008. The commercial court ruled on a reduced award in January. Mabanga was already paid a $2.8 million service fee for the consulting work, which Vodacom maintains was a full and final settlement of its obligations.

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