Altech’s Venter talks up Hedberg hire
Altech CEO Craig Venter says the group’s appointment of former acting group Telkom CEO Jeffrey Hedberg as its chief operating officer from 1 July will help propel it onto the “world stage” in technology, media and telecommunications.
The JSE-listed group, controlled by Altron, announced on Tuesday that it was hiring Hedberg, who is also a former CEO of Cell C, to head up all of its operations. Venter says he and Hedberg will work closely to pursue international acquisitions, adding that there are already “one or two substantial” deals under discussion. He declines to elaborate on the nature of talks.
“There will be a powerful alliance between myself and Jeffrey,” Venter says. “We will look at taking Altech into a much more global business. We’re going to be highly acquisitive in the next 12 months.”
He says he is “confident” Altech will return to 15%-20% annual earnings growth, “especially with Jeffrey Hedberg on board”.
Altech on Wednesday published disappointing annual results for the period to 28 February 2011, with profits and margins driven lower by poor performance at its formerly fast-growing operation in East Africa. Operating margins fell from 10,1% to 8,2%. The group was forced to impair R275m in East Africa, mainly in respect of the carrying value of the operation there.
Venter says he’s confident the situation at the East African operation is being turned around and expects strong profit growth in the new financial year. Operating margins would return to about 10% in the new financial year. He says Hedberg, who has extensive experience running telecoms operators, will play a key role in identifying opportunities in Kenya and other markets in the region.
“East Africa remains an absolutely core business for Altech,” Venter says. “It’s still our growth driver, albeit we’ve had a tough 12 months.”
He says Hedberg will also help Altech Autopage Cellular, the group’s largest subsidiary, deal with the convergence of voice and data services. Competition in SA’s mobile market is intensifying, but Autopage still turned in a reasonable performance, growing revenue to R5,6bn.
Group turnover was R9,7bn from R9,2bn previously, but profits fell to R225m from R585m. — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral