Sunday, August 25, 2019

Struggling Econet puts its shuttered and debt-riddled Econet Media and Kwesé up for sale in 29 countries including its 20%-stake in South Africa's new free-to-air Kwesé Free TV licensed venture.

Zimbabwe's struggling Econet Wireless Ltd. - that has seen its ambitious pay-TV business Kwesé TV implode under a mountain of debt with services ranging from its abruptly shuttered Kwesé Play streaming service to TV channels like Kwesé Play Free Sports go dark - has put up a "for sale" sign for Econet Media for all of its businesses across Southern Africa and Dubai.

Interestingly this includes its 20%-stake in Kwesé Free TV, the free-to-air, commercial TV station that got a licence from South Africa's broadcasting regulator earlier this year to start a new bouquet of freely available TV channels in South Africa.

It's not clear how the sale and proposed sale of Econet's stake in Kwesé Free TV will affect its TV licence, with the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) that has done nothing so far to investigate and re-interrogate the granted licence given the changing conditions of ownership under which the original licence was granted.

Bloomberg reported on Friday that Econet is now offering up its Econet Media unit, housing the damaged Kwesé brands, for sale.

Ernst & Young Ltd. ran a full-page newspaper advertisement, saying that it will oversee offers for all or part of the company's shareholdings in 29 businesses in Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Zambia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Mauritius, Ghana, Kenya and Dubai.

It remains to be seen whether companies and rivals operating in South Africa, ranging from the MultiChoice Group, M-Net, and Netflix, to China's StarTimes, telecom operators like Vodacom and MTN or other players might be interested in any of the severely reputation-damaged Econet Media debt-mess.

The shutdown of the embattled Econet's business ventures keeps rippling as it abruptly shuttered its whole Econet Media division which included Kwesé iflix as latest victim.

The debt-laden Econet that has not paid retrenched staffers their severance money and told them it doesn't know when it will be able to, has seen its Kwese TV pay-TV division abruptly shut down and placed into liquidation, its TV channels like Kwesé Free Sports abruptly go dark and off air without warning, and its Kwesé Play streaming service and Roku-device terminated.

Now Econet,owned by the Zimbabwean billionaire Strive Masiyiwa, has been forced to shut down its entire Econet Media subsidiary where Joseph Hundah has been Econet Media CEO and that racked up more than $130 million in debt in content costs including expensive sports rights and other services.

Econet has said nothing about its alleged bad management, rapid and aggressive expansion plans and cash splurges, bad and often non-existent customer care and foolish content acquisition strategies that were all self-inflicted damage that led to Econet Media's downfall and implosion.

Econet said in July that its beleaguered pay-TV and TV business struggled to compete with China's StarTimes and MultiChoice's DStv.

Meanwhile several current and former South African workers of Econet who are enduring living hell but who were once "promised heaven" if they join Kwesé TV, showed TVwithThinus correspondence of them not having been paid their severance packages after being retrenched and Econet executives telling them that there isn't money and that they can't give answers as to when they will be paid.