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9mobile: Confidence crisis hits sale as 3 out of 5 finalists develop cold feet?

Inability of the sales handlers to deny a report by The Cable since weekend that three out of the five shotlisted five companies including Airtel, Helios and Globacom may have developed cold feet in the final bidding round of troubled 9mobile has raised issues bordering on crisis of confidence.

The Cable reported that whereas Airtel pulled out by not submiting a final bid for 9mobile despite being on the shortlist of five, both Globacom and Helios fialed to name a price or make any financial offer in their submitted bids after all.

However, The Cable reported that Teleology Holdings Limited submitted a bid in excess of $500 million while Smile Telecoms Holdings quoted close to $300 million.

It would be recalled that Business Hilights Intelligence Unit (BHIU), the research department of Business Hilights Publications had late last year carried a report that odds favour Globacom and Teleology Holdings fronted by pioneer chief executive of MTN Nigeria, Mr. Adrian Woods.

Latest details garnered as at January 16, 2018 showed that only Wood’s group and Smile telecoms certified to a larger extent given conditions for takeover.

Industry experts seemed highly disappointed on the sudden Airtel’s U-turn as the deal would have earned it a successful displacement of MTN Nigeria as the leading telecoms with the highest subscriber base in the country.

According to TheCable, Airtel decided to pull out because “many things are not too plain with the entire process”.

“Airtel believes too many things are hidden about the health of 9mobile, and that it is too risky for anyone to buy the company. Things became compounded with the court case by Spectrum Wireless. Remember the Strive Masiyiwa case over the ownership of Econet which hurt the company for a long time,” an insider in the deal told TheCable.

Wood AD

Adrian Woods, CEO of Teleology Holdings Limited

It was not clear if what forced Glo and Helios to with hold naming price is linked to the recent court ruling that nullified the current board of the 9mobile as a quick interpretation to the ruling secured by Spectrum Wireless may mean that the sales processes are efforts in futility after all.

It would be recalled that Spectrum Wireless, a shareholder of Emerging Markets Telecommunications Service (EMTS) — which owns the 9mobile licence — went to court against United Capital Trustees Limited — representatives of the debtors — in order to stop the constitution of an interim board for 9mobile after the take-over in July 2017.

Though it lost the case then, the federal high court later nullified the ex parte order, and United Securities has now gone on appeal waiting for ruling.

Trouble had started for 9mobile, formally Etisalat Nigeria when in July 2017, Etisalat Nigeria, was taken over by banks following a N541 billion debt overhang.

The crisis forced Mubadala Group, the major investor from the United Arab Emirates, to pull out of Nigeria’s fourth largest mobile operator as a result of the debt owed to a consortium of 13 banks.

Another factor remains the continued presence of Barclays Africa as acting transaction advisers after some credibility overhang which was otherwise, resolved on time.

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