Going Down To The Wire

Percy Sutton invests $835 million in wireless communication network in Africa

as ACTEL’s executive vice president and CFO. Using its roughly $20 million in seed capital, ACTEL plans to raise more than $400 million in equity and $400 million in institutional debt. The former will come from selling high-yield high-risk bonds which could carry a 13% or 14% interest rate.

In the second phase, ACTEL goes public with an IPO of its South African subsidiary, Elcore Satellites, on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) later this year.

Jude Kearney, an international trade specialist in Washington, D.C., says the venture is “timely and calls attention to infrastructural issues that could be very good for the continent.” The newer technology, he says, makes it “cheaper and easier to bring wireless communications to Africa and could literally jump-start land-based telephony on the continent.” His only concern is that it’s difficult to predict who ACTEL’s local partners will be and whether there will be strong corporate guidelines to ensure that everyone sees this new technology as a model for the long run. “But if recent history is a guide, I don’t think there are any more reasons for [African] business people to shortchange local users as elsewhere.”

A long-time visitor to Africa, Sutton says it’s a wonderful alliance of Africans, black Americans and others that has created ACTEL. “With ACTEL,” he says, “we have something in the air that can provide entrepreneurial opportunity for Africans on the ground.”

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