Wed, 08 Jul 2020

The company that runs Africa's largest public Wi-Fi network is being liquidated after the unprofitable business failed to secure new investors.

The demise of Vast Networks is a blow to its majority owner, SA entertainment company the MultiChoice Group, which was spun off from Naspers , earlier this year. Vast's other shareholder is Dimension Data Holdings, a unit of Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corp.

Vast Networks will go into liquidation next week after 18 months of sale talks ended in failure and other alternatives were exhausted, a spokesman said by email. Fiber-optic infrastructure company Link Africa had previously discussed buying it for R450m, Bloomberg reported in January.

"No agreement could be concluded, and the board is satisfied that all alternative options have now been exhausted," the spokesman said. "Despite all our efforts, a sustainable and profitable business model could not be established, and the company continued to incur monthly trading losses almost from its inception."

MultiChoice declined further comment.

Public wifi operators seek to turn a profit by charging customers for access, selling their usage data to third parties or selling advertising that's seen by users. The services often compete directly with the mobile data networks and wifi services of big telecommunication groups.

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