Remgro unit appoints CEO to exploit DFA, Vumatel assets

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Community Investment Ventures Holdings has named Raymond Ndlovu as its CEO.
Community Investment Ventures Holdings has named Raymond Ndlovu as its CEO.

Remgro-controlled Community Investment Ventures Holdings (CIVH) has named Raymond Ndlovu as its CEO.

This as the company looks to solidify its position in the South African telecoms space.

CIVH says it has appointed Ndlovu to drive and lead its ambitious growth plans. He will be accountable to the company’s board of directors, which is chaired by Remgro strategic investments executive and former Vodacom CEO Pieter Uys.

Ndlovu’s primary objective is to create a diversified wholesale, open-access ICT infrastructure business, to enhance the existing asset base.

CIVH is active in the telecommunications and information technology sectors. The group’s major operating companies are Dark Fibre Africa (DFA) and Vumatel, which constructs and owns fibre-optic networks.

According to the investment firm, the open-access business models of both DFA and Vumatel have fostered the rapid growth and development of a competitive telecoms landscape in South Africa.

Fibre networks

DFA has deployed over 16 000km of ducting infrastructure in major South African metros, secondary cities and smaller towns. The company says its network runs with an uptime of 99.98%.

Vumatel pioneered fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) in SA and has since connected thousands of homes across Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban to broadband Internet. The company, which has a footprint in excess of 600 000 homes, anticipates there are at least a further 700 000 homes in emerging markets.

In a statement, CIVH says Ndlovu’s appointment coincides with the confirmation of several other senior appointments, including Kobus Viljoen as chief financial officer, Andries Delport as chief technical officer and Neo Moshimane as chief corporate officer.

Vodacom announced Delport's resignation from the company this week after spending 23 years with the mobile operator, where he also worked with Uys. He will join CIVH in May 2020.

According to Ndlovu, the idea behind the new executive team is to strengthen CIVH’s position in the telecommunications market and down the line, “we are looking to create a diversified ICT infrastructure network business”.

In an interview with ITWeb, Ndlovu said there are no plans to merge DFA and Vumatel, and the companies will continue to operate separately.

He says CIVH is looking to create synergies between the two entities. “The companies will retain their identities.”

DFA is more enterprise-driven, providing fibre-to-the-business services and Vumatel services to the FTTH market, Ndlovu explains.

“We initially started by investing in DFA, and last year, we acquired Vumatel. When combined, these companies have become a significant business. Thus, it’s prudent to create capacity at the centre of the holding company – CIVH – to facilitate all the required strategic and operational targets,” he notes.

“In order for that to happen, CIVH needed someone to lead an executive team. The company needed people with a combination of business experience and leadership capabilities to head the business.”

Competition queries

In April, the Competition Commission approved the merger between CIVH and last mile fibre access provider Vumatel.

Before this, CIVH acquired 34.9% of Vumatel for an undisclosed amount last year, and entered into an agreement with Vumatel shareholders to acquire the remaining 65.1%, subject to funding and regulatory approvals.

CIVH also controls Dark Fibre Africa, a fibre-optic company which provides backhaul services to Vumatel.

DFA builds and operates optic-fibre infrastructure which is leased to wholesale customers such as Vumatel and its competitors in the last mile.

DFA also controls SA Digital Villages, a fibre-to-the-home provider and Internet service provider specialising in the installation, operation and maintenance of fibre-optic networks in residential areas and homes, on which it also provides customers with services.

DFA’s infrastructure covers large metropolitan areas, and its long-haul route between Gauteng and the east coast passes many small towns.

Before the merger was approved, Octotel, which also relies on DFA to provide it with backhaul services in the Western Cape, had raised concerns in relation to the proposed merger and was permitted to make submissions to the tribunal as an “intervenor”.

Octotel urged the tribunal to prohibit the merger, arguing the proposed conditions were insufficient to prevent CIVH, via DFA, favouring Vumatel at the expense of rivals.

In March, DFA announced it had opened an office in Harare, Zimbabwe, marking its first network expansion into African markets outside of SA.

CIVH is jointly controlled by Industrial Electronic Investment (IEI) and New GX. IEI is controlled by Venfin, which is, in turn, controlled by Remgro.

Extensive experience

Ndlovu has been an investment executive for Remgro since 2013.

According to CIHV, he has garnered extensive corporate and entrepreneurial experience in various fields in the financial services industry, including investment banking, asset management, and stockbroking, since 1998.

He has held senior management positions with several organisations, namely Prodigy Asset Management, Metropolitan Life and Standard Chartered Merchant Bank. He co-founded and was CEO of institutional stockbroking firm, Noah, for 10 years, until July 2011.

In 2013, Ndlovu joined the venture investment division of the Remgro group, Invenfin, as an investment executive, before being reassigned to the parent company, Remgro.

“There has been a lot of speculation in the press recently about whether CIVH is appropriately structured, if it has the right kind of shareholders and whether we are in for the long haul. I want to assure you that all the current shareholders are deeply committed to the long-term success of the group,” he concludes.

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