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9mobile suddenly becoming ‘Rose flower’ for prospective investors?

Following last Friday’s High Court judgement nullifying the appointed board of 9mobile at a time stakeholders are waiting for the unveiling of the new owners and the follow up caveat emptor issued by Spectrum Wireless Communication on the sale of 9mobile, the embattled telecom can best be described now as Rose flower.

A Rose flower is one of the most beautiful flowers on earth but beyond the attractive beauty, it is laced with deep piercing thorns.

Already, the solicitors to the firm, J. A. Achimugu and Co. and Dr.  Reuben Atabo and Co., said by virtue of the judgement it received on Friday, the transition board appointed to oversee the sale of the company had been nullified and the order appointing the board vacated.

Spectrum Wireless is also demanding a refund of its initial investment of $35m in Etisalat Nigeria.

The solicitors warned that any institution or company that transacted business for the purpose of the sale or acquisition of 9mobile did so at their own risk.

“My client wants his money back,” one of the solicitors, Atabo said while speaking with journalists at a press briefing in Lagos on Sunday.

The lawyer also raised additional controversy saying “the $1.2bn loan secured by Etisalat was shrouded in secrecy as Spectrum Wireless was not aware of it”.

Atabo noted further that investigations conducted by his team showed that about $100m investment from Spectrum Wireless and three other non-bank investors was used to build infrastructure that some directors in the company used as collateral for the $1.2bn loan.

According to him, “Our client and three other investors put in about $100m as of 2009. The $100m was used in providing infrastructure for the company. It was this infrastructure that gave EMTS the opportunity to go to the banks to obtain the loan of $1.2bn. Is it proper for United Capital not to recognise the original investor when they got the loan?

“We have written series of letters to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) as the regulating body conveying to them our investment and the need for them to come to our aid. They always tell us they are investigating for the past five to six years.

“Assuming they go ahead with the sale, we will not be recognised at all. It is better the issue is sorted out before the sale is completed.”

Before now, there had been fears of the sale of 9mobile becoming endless as the NCC aided the shifting of the sales process by way of asking for deadline extension based on demands of the appointed board.

TThis showed up towards the end of December when the NCC and the apex bank gave approval for an extension of time for bidding to January 16, 2018, based on the request by the 9mobile Interim Board even as the given 180 days window draws near.

Trouble had cropped up mid last year when the inability of formerly Etisalat Nigeria could not resolve a loan of about $1.2bn with 13 Nigerian banks.

Things got worse when the original investor, the Etisalat Group withdrew its 45 per cent stake in the company, thus leaving to company close to being declared bankrupt, but for the intervention of the two federal agencies who considered the negative effects of the collapse on the over 20 million subscribers and the entire telecoms industry within the period.

Though five companies have been shortlisted for the acquisition of 9mobile after submitting their expressions of interest to Barclays include Bharti Airtel, Smile Telecoms Holdings, Helios Investment Partners LLP, Teleology Holdings Limited and Globacom, analysts say odds favour Globacom and Teleology Holdings.

Teleology is promoted by pioneer chief executive of MTN Nigeria, Mr. Adrian Wood.

Observers say his track record and management background have all it takes to drive and revive the troubled telecoms.

Adrian Wood is an economist, educated at Cambridge and Harvard Universities. From 1969 to 1977, he taught at Cambridge, where he was a Fellow of King’s College and a lecturer in the Faculty of Economics. From 1977 to 1985, he was a senior economist at the World Bank in Washington DC, working on China, Turkey and the 1980 World Development Report. From 1985 to 2000, he was a Professorial Fellow of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, and from 2000 to 2005 was Chief Economist of the UK’s Department for International Development.

Even though he is currently linked to Teleology Holdings Limited, Wood is still now a top employee of Brymedia West Africa Limited in the position of Chief Executive Officer and was employed at MTN Group Ltd. in the position of Former Group Chief Operating Officer and Member of Group Tender Committee.