* To ensure Africa partnerships creates value
* Committed to launch mobile unit by year-end
* Group not focusing on acqusitions, new licences
* Shares have dropped 11 pct year-to-date (Adds acting CEO comments, details, shares)
By Gugulakhe Lourie
JOHANNESBURG, Aug 24 (Reuters) - Telkom TKGJ.J is looking to restart talks with AT&T Inc T.N about its Africa partnership, which has so far brought little new business, the acting chief executive of South Africa's largest fixed-line operator said on Tuesday.
Jeffrey Hedberg also told Reuters on the sidelines of the company’s annual shareholder meeting that Telkom was not looking for new acquisitions now.
Telkom agreed in April 2009 to work with AT&T to provide IT and telecom services in Africa in a bid to win business from foreign firms expanding on the continent, but so far the partnership has failed to win many contracts.
“The partnership (with AT&T) has not progressed to an extent we would like to date,” Hedberg said, adding the problems stemmed from issues related to pricing and after-sales support.
“I am going to re-ignite discussions with AT&T,” he said.
Telkom in April 2009 signed a memorandum of understaning with AT&T that would allow the U.S. firm’s clients in Africa to use Telkom’s Internet-based network on the continent.
Telkom’s network -- built by acquiring companies such as Kenya’s Africa Online and MWeb Africa -- was to be linked to AT&T’s global network, helping it win business from AT&T’s customers.
The company is now focusing on existing customers, not acquisitions or chasing new licences, he said.
“We now know what we want to do with our South African customers...they need to be serviced in Nigeria, Nairobi. That’s where much stronger focus is going to be now, rather than buying a third mobile licence in Cameroon or a fourth licence in Zimbabwe,” he said.
Telkom has announced an ambitious 6 billion rand ($810.8 million) plan to enter South Africa’s competitive mobile phone market, a move analysts have said would be very difficult.
“We are working very hard and remain committed to launch our mobile before year-end,” he said.
Telkom shares have dropped 11 percent this year. As of 1113 GMT, the stock traded 0.74 percent weaker at 33.45 rand, in line with a 1 percent drop in the JSE All share index .JALSH. (Editing by David Dolan)