Wananchi to raise up to US$100 million for TV expansion

Wananchi Group logoWananchi Group, the owner of East African pay TV operator Zuku TV, plans to launch a fresh funding round for US$50 million (€38 million) to US$100 million before the end of the year, according to CEO Richard Bell.

Speaking exclusively to DTVE, Bell said that since Wananchi Group was founded in 2008 it has already raised just over US$300 million, from investors including Liberty Global and Altice Group, and that the new funds will allow it to further grow its TV operations.

“We’re looking to grow the footprint of the business, both for the satellite TV and the cable business and so whilst the existing business plans are fully funded, we would anticipate raising additional rounds of finance in the future to fund expansion into the new markets,” said Bell.

He said that on the cable side Wananchi expected to “launch in contiguous markets from our base in East Africa” and to also rollout its satellite service in more markets. “We will launch a round for an addition US$50 to US$100 million between now and the end of the year,” he said.

Though Bell wouldn’t comment on the precise markets Wananchi was eyeing next, the firm already has cable operations in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

On the satellite pay TV side, Bell said the firm was actively distributing its service in six countries in East Africa but “will expand to 12 to 15 during the course of next year.”

In line with this, Wananchi last month completed the migration of its Zuku TV satellite service from SES’s NSS-12 satellite to SES-5 – a move that Bell said gives it more capacity as well as wider reach, with the new satellite having a footprint over “the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa.”

Bell also said that the firm expects to grow its channel line-up from the nine linear channels it owns and operates today to “12 to 15 over the next two years.” Its current channels include Zuku Sports, Zuku Movies Max and Zuku Swahili Movies.

In 2011 Wananchi raised US$57.5million in growth capital from investors including Liberty Global, Oppenheimer Funds, Canada-based emerging markets fund manager Sarona Asset Management, and African private equity firm East Africa Capital Partners.

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