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Etisalat’s destiny to be decided in six months as new appointees take charge

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Though the safety of subscribers is now guaranteed, issues surrounding who will own Etisalat Nigeria is expected to be figured out within the next six months of the transition managers headed by former deputy governor of the Central bank of Nigeria (CBN), Dr. Joseph Nnanna.

Otherwise, the current ad-hoc seven-member board will among other things determine the affairs of the embattled telecommunications firm, prepare it for outright sale or merger and conclude the buy over within the given period.

Since the ongoing saving process, the apex bank had been very careful in avoiding the mention of bailout or government recapitalization, but failed to actually explain how the new board will navigate to the shores of loan default within six months.

However, indication emerged on Thursday that the brand name, Etisalat may seize very soon for two reasons; either the original brand owners, Mudabala Dubai retrieves it from Nigeria following their pullout, or the new owners will like to do away with the name.

It was not however clear if the mandate of the transition managers extends to working out a model to pay the $1.2bn before either sales or merger.

The irony of the loan default stemmed from the puzzle of how an injection of such a hard currency did not only failed to push up the subscriber base of the company which analysts say remain the main aim of infrastructure upgrade, the main reason behind the loan in the first instance.

For example, whereas Etisalat Nigeria claimed to have injected the entire fund to network infrastructure, there is only less than five million subscribers’ rise between the time of the loan and repayment which was between 2013 and first quarter of 2017.

More puzzle followed the observation that other competitors who never took such loan or invested up to $1.2bn in their network raked in more subscribers within the period under review.

Even though the apex bank and the telecoms regulator had overpowered the crisis, financial analysts still call for forensic audit of the true use of the fund even before the eventual sale or merger in the next six months.

They said the result of the audit will serve as a deterrent for a possible reoccurrence either in the sector or another critical sector of the economy.

Currently, Etisalat Nigeria controls about 15 per cent market share in Nigeria and has been running the lost battle with 13 consortium of banks since March, after it notified them of its inability to meet the servicing of its $1.2bn debt in February, blaming foreign exchange crisis and recession.