back from the brink
How Altron has changed since the Venters
Altron, the technology and manufacturing giant built by Bill Venter, stumbled badly under his heirs. Under new CEO Mteto Nyati the group is now in transition from a family business to one that is professionally managed. Nick Hedley assesses the company’s prospects of re-inventing itself and recapturing the glory days of its formidable, and flexible, founder
Mteto Nyati came close to being head of Altron while he was still CEO of MTN SA. Before Altron poached him, he got relatively near to pulling the trigger on an MTN takeover of the then-struggling manufacturing and technology group. Nyati, while head of MTN’s SA business, was on the hunt for new revenue streams as the mobile operator faced a decline in traditional voice-call revenues. "I was looking at that new revenue stream being ICT [information and communications technology]," he recalls. "I felt it was going to take forever to organically build that capability, so we needed to make an acquisition." Despite its troubles, Altron really tickled his fancy. So, between March and September 2015, MTN was in serious talks with the company about a deal and was conducting a rigorous due-diligence process. Altron had a market capitalisation of about R6bn when discussions started. Just nine months before, it was worth R10bn. Ultimately though, Nyati decided not to pursue it, simply because ...