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The Way Business Is Moving

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Issue Date: April 2006

News in brief

1 April 2006
Paul Booth

Datalinx MBO
Datalinx MBO
Datalinx Technologies, a developer and supplier of innovative wireless communications technologies, has been bought out by its management and is intended to position the company so as to encourage new investors including BEE entities. Its flagship product, CellPAD, is a GPRS-based point of sale and transaction processing device that offers a trouble-free communication solution for the most demanding of environments.
DataPro buys again
The AltX-listed DataPro Group has acquired NetraLINK, a specialist Internet Business Solution Provider, for a little over R10m. In terms of the acquisition DataPro will acquire NetraLINK's customer base and annuity revenue streams and provides the latter with a strong additional business and customer base.
This acquisition is the latest in a string of ISP takeovers that DataPro has made since being listed back in the latter half of 2004 and which includes Atlantic Internet Services for R45m last August and Wickhit in March 2005.
DataPro has also acquired BizCall. The company focuses on using open-source telephony software for the provision of voice and data services into specific niches in the SA telecommunications industry. Using a Linux-based open-source telephony protocol, BizCall is addressing two specific voice and data needs - call centres and the PBX market.
Toshiba expands in South Africa
The Computer Systems Division to Toshiba Europe GmbH recently announced the opening of an office in South Africa (Q2) to meet the growing demand for notebook PCs. Toshiba has sold notebooks PCs and solutions in South Africa since the year 2001 and will continue to work with its existing distributor - Rectron - but also starts operations with Mustek - one of the leading distributors in South Africa.
This move complements Toshiba's marketing and sales strategy and is designed to streamline inventory management, improve customer experience, and increase awareness for Toshiba products.
The opening of an office re-inforces the company's commitment to support the strong growing PC market in South Africa, especially for notebook PCs. During the last quarter (Q4 2005) the notebook market in South Africa year-on-year grew by 26% and over the whole year by 36,9%.
Due diligence in Africa
Diligence International LLC, the business intelligence and risk management firm, has launched a new business unit focused on helping clients succeed in complex African operating environments. Combining a comprehensive understanding of the local environment with an emphasis on assisting the investor in implementing sustainable and socially responsible practices, Diligence is well placed to help firms identify and execute winning business strategies with one of their recent high profile deals in Africa being the $1,3bn acquisition by MTC of MobilTel.
Diligence offers a range of services that cover the spectrum of investor needs, including due diligence on local partners, asset tracing, analysis of both political-economic environments and key personalities, guidance on transparency and governance, and mitigation of physical risk to facilities and personnel.
Diligence Africa's team is composed of professionals with diverse backgrounds, including intelligence, corruption and fraud investigation, military special operations, academia, journalism, and law. The team is led by Julian Fisher, formerly with the UK Foreign Office in Nairobi and Harare.
The African team will also be supported by Diligence's Transparency and Compliance group led by Glenn Ware, the former co-head of the World Bank's Office of Institutional Integrity. The company was founded in 2000 by a group of former members of the CIA and Britain's MI5 security service.
Intelsat launches DVB offering
Intelsat has launched a new digital video broadcasting (DVB) platform on its IS-10-02 satellite specifically aimed at providing enhanced Internet trunking services within Africa. The new platform, which became operational in January 2006, opens up new opportunities and alternatives for Tier 2 and Tier 3 ISPs and for large corporates. The new platform takes advantage of Intelsat's GlobalConnex terrestrial network and provides multiple accesses to Tier 1 ISPs.
The Intelsat GlobalConnex Internet Trunking Service DVB with its 128 Kbps to 8 Mbps downlink and 128 Kbps to 4 Mbps uplink is an ideal solution for Tier 2/3 ISPs who require access to the Internet backbone for international content and connectivity, and, for emerging ISPs or resellers requiring low bandwidth and small antennas.
The African Virtual University (AVU) based in Nairobi, Kenya, and established in 1997 as a World Bank project to dramatically increase access to tertiary education by utilising ICTs, is the first customer to use this capability. The AVU is affiliated with 56 learning centres and institutions in 27 countries across Africa, and provides some of its own content and sources additional educational content from universities in Australia, Europe and the USA.
This new service platform provides opportunities that alleviate the delays to the deployment of the new submarine cable for Africa's east coast.
MarketWorks gets BE
Khuba Consulting, a consulting company owned entirely by black women, has bought 25% of the shares of MarketWorks Advisory. In terms of the agreement, Khuba Consulting, which is headed by Sadi Mpungose, has changed its name to MarketWorks Consulting. The latter now has full access to the support, experience and hands-on advice of MarketWorks Advisory, a company licensed by MarketWorks, the exclusive representative of LSE-listed Datamonitor Group in Southern Africa, to use Datamonitor research in their role of providing business and technology advice.
Naspers expands its scope
NASPERS' conditional access (CA) business Irdeto has purchased pay-television technology unit CryptoTec from Dutch technology giant Philips Electronics. CryptoTec develops and sells CA products such as advanced security systems for cable, satellite, terrestrial and Internet protocol networks and are of strategic importance in the digital television environment. In SA, the main user is MultiChoice, which uses the technology to secure its broadcast operations.
Prism in the firing line
Prism, a JSE-listed organisation, is a successful trusted transactions company with expertise in the area of secure electronic transaction technologies and services. The group has a strong presence here in South Africa and an established and expanding footprint across Africa and South-East Asia.
It is now the target of a potential take-over that involves competing bids from both JSE-listed Altech and Nasdaq-listed, but SA-based, Net 1 UEPS Technologies. The latter has featured significantly in CBR Africa over the past few months and only a few weeks ago announced a joint venture with a Botswana-based company for an initiative in that country.
Whatever the outcome, which should have been determined by the time this column is published, means yet another casualty for the JSE re de-listings. I predicted earlier this year that it is likely that the JSE will see at least 10 technology casualties this year, and with this one, the list has already reached 50% of that number with the disappearance from the JSE of FrontRange and Elexir already, the planned de-listings of OAI and VenFin in April and potentially, the above.
Sekunjalo expands its IT stake
Sekunjalo has 'beefed-up' its IT portfolio, yet again, with the acquisition of FIOS, a company that distributes a niche sector of Cognos' business intelligence software. According to Sekunjalo, it would like to list its IT interests in 12-18 months, thus I suspect we should be watching for additional take-overs to boost this part of its business portfolio.
TalkTalk in South Africa
UK telecommunications company TalkTalk, part of LSE-listed The Carphone Warehouse Group, has announced an investment in excess of R200m into the South African call centre industry, with operations to be launched in Cape Town and Johannesburg. The call centres will deal with the increasing volume of calls generated from their rapidly growing broadband customer base in the UK.
TalkTalk has already announced its intention to invest significantly into the UK broadband market in 2006 and will unbundle up to 1000 BT exchanges over the next three years and thus, expects a significant growth in their broadband subscriber base over the next two years. As a direct result of this, TalkTalk needs to employ several hundred additional call centre agents to serve all those customers. Despite the expansion of their UK operations, they still cannot recruit and house that many people in the UK alone in such a short time frame.
TalkTalk's Johannesburg operation will be outsourced to Merchants, although the Cape Town operation will be managed in-house by TalkTalk themselves. Initially, 250 people will be recruited in Cape Town and a similar number in Johannesburg.
SME broadband VoIP offering
MWEB Business has today announced the launch of OfficeCall ADSL, its first Voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP) offering that uses a broadband Internet connection. Developed specifically for small to medium enterprises (SMEs), OfficeCall ADSL is aimed at companies that do not have existing private branch exchanges (PBXs) or telecommunication systems.
"The growth in broadband adoption in the SME sector has necessitated us to develop a telephony solution that complements the benefits of having an always-on Internet connection," says Gary Hart, general manager: Marketing and Products, MWEB Business.
Installation of OfficeCall ADSL is simple, and there is no need for businesses to re-invest in their networks or telephone systems. LCR enables companies to make calls at substantially reduced rates, for example savings of up to 35% on South African cellular calls, up to 12% on national calls as well as up to 60% savings on international calls.
In addition, inter-branch calls and calls between the MWEB Business VoIP community are free.
All products in the OfficeCall ADSL range are available immediately. Customers incur a once-off set-up fee from R99,00, and a monthly rent-to-own fee from R49,00 per month for a 24 month period. All prices quoted include VAT. Customers are invoiced monthly for all calls made on the MWEB Business VoIP network.
WBS loses the lottery
Blue Label Investments has taken a 40% share in Wireless Business Solutions (WBS), the parent company of iBurst. This share was previously owned by Gtech Holdings, the technology company behind many of the world's lotteries, including SA. USA-based Gtech Holdings have also themselves just been acquired by listed Italian company, Lottomatica S.p.A, the exclusive licence holder and operator of Italy's Lotto. The new MD of WBS is Alan Knott-Craig Jnr, the son of the CEO of Vodacom.
Turning up the heat on printers
BMI-TechKnowledge has announced the publication of The South African Printer Report for Q4 2005. The report indicates that the printer industry experienced a 5,9% year-on-year decline overall (Q4 2005/Q4 2004) in terms of unit shipments. Contraction in printer shipments was a result of cannibalisation of single-function printers by MFPs. Vendors' main focus for Q4 2005 was reported to be the colour laser segment, which expanded 59,9% year-on-year.
Tanja Naidoo, analyst at BMI-T, says, "Printers performed beyond expectations in 2004 with a growth rate of 17,7% while in 2005 printers grew by 4,6%. As a result, growth of the printer industry is expected to continue its downward trend in 2006."
On a year-on-year basis (Q4 2005/Q4 2004) laser, serial dot matrix and line printers contributed to the positive growth in the printer market, while inkjet printers showed a 19,8% drop in unit sales. This could be attributed to the proliferation of MFPs 'turning up the heat on inkjets'.
The printer market saw a 21,6% decline in unit shipments on a quarter-on-quarter basis (Q4 2005/Q3 2005). Very small businesses and the home sector were the top two performing end-user segments with 31,5% and 25,5% share respectively.
Changing the training landscape
Thomson NETg has introduced a new suite of learning products and services called KnowledgeNow to the South African market via LR Learning Solutions, business unit of Learning Resources, part of the LR Group. The suite is designed to align with key operational initiatives and ensure continual, enterprise-wide acquisition of knowledge and information while lowering the overall cost of learning for both private and public sector organisations.
"The KnowledgeNow Suite gives NETg customers improved functionality, flexibility and customisation," explains Andre Hogan, vice president business development, Thomson NETg International. "Under the new platform, learning courses will be lighter, livelier and more accommodating to bandwidth."
With the KnowledgeNow Suite, customers are able to develop, customise, host, deliver and report on engaging learning initiatives that can be delivered via a blend of differing modalities.
According to an IDC study, there was a 65% increase in knowledge from pre-testing to post-testing. Retention was also high, with 94% of learners passing courses the first time around. It has also proved a more cost effective option to traditional instructor-led training (ILT).
KnowledgeNow - which can be run over 56K bandwidth - provides a unique, comprehensive approach to learning that supports organisations' key initiatives and ensures that the constant acquisition of knowledge is central to a company's performance.


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