A consortium led by African Infrastructure Investment Managers (AIIM) is acquiring South African fibre network operator Octotel from Actis.

The investor group, which includes impact infrastructure and energy investor STOA and Thebe Investment Corporation, has also acquired a minority stake in RSAWeb, a South Africa-focused internet service provider.

No financial details were disclosed.

Actis invested in the fibre network operator in the Western Cape in 2020 and has since then helped grow the platform, with homes passed by fibre rising from 195,000 to 350,000 and connected customers increasing from 56,000 to 110,000.

Under the ownership of Actis, Octotel also achieved significant sustainability milestones to drive positive environmental as well as social impact, Actis said.

“These include providing free internet connections to more than 150 schools in the Western Cape, converting its fleet of vehicles to [liquefied petroleum gas] hybrid vehicles to decarbonise transportation, and securing one of the first social loans in South Africa in recognition of the company’s work to promote digital inclusion.”

Matthew McCollum, director at Actis, said Octotel still has considerable “growth prospects as the South African fibre market continues to expand and we’re leaving the platform in a strong position”.

David Cooke, partner at Actis, said: “The sale of Octotel adds to the strong track record Actis has in digital infrastructure. Digital represents an important sector for Actis and we’ve got an exciting investment pipeline for the sector, notably in the data centre, telecom tower and fibre network segments. We’re unlocking these opportunities globally and currently have US$1.5bn (€1.4bn) committed to the sector worldwide.

“This exit of Octotel comes shortly after our recent signing of an agreement to acquire Swiftnet, a leading telecom towers business in South Africa. We expect to see considerable growth in South Africa’s digital infrastructure, driven by strong secular tailwinds like rising data consumption and internet penetration.”

Thor Corry, investment director at AIIM, said: “We are thrilled with the acquisition of Octotel and RSAWeb and look forward to empowering their world-class management team to continue to drive connectivity in the Western Cape and contribute to the ongoing digital transformation in South Africa.”

Corry added that the acquisition represents a landmark transaction for the IDEAS Fund, AIIM’s open-ended SADC region infrastructure fund, and “adds to the portfolio’s complement of high-quality growth infrastructure assets”.

Marie-Laure Mazaud, CEO of STOA, said: “We are glad to be part of this journey alongside our partners AIIM and Thebe with whom we share a common goal for the development of the South African telecommunications sector, and we are looking forward to supporting the management to take advantage of new opportunities to ensure a fruitful growth.

“This transaction reinforces STOA’s long-term commitment to the deployment of affordable, reliable and fast connectivity in Africa.”

Rapulane Mabelane, Thebe’s CIO, said: “The core of Thebe’s investment strategy is to build communities by partnering with the right teams and investing in highly successful world class businesses that are involved in sectors that drive economic growth and transformation. 

“One of the objectives of the national development Plan is to bridge the digital divide. Through this transaction, we aim to play our part in expanding the high speed fibre network into greater parts of the Western Cape.”

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