Business Hilights
Tracking Nigeria's Headline Business News Online

Why unveiling of new owners of 9mobile may not be this year but 2018 Q1

Indications emerged Thursday evening in Abuja that last minute reality checks made in readiness for the naming of the bid winner of 9mobile ran into clearance hitches traced to political interference and pockets of opposition coming from some banks whose facilities were among the defaulted syndicated $1.2bn loan given to Etisalat, now, 9mobile.

Before now, there had been strong assurance that the new operator of the embattled telecom would be unveiled before the end of the year.

But a close follower of the bidding process confided in Business Hilights that stiff oppositions are coming from different quarters with deep political and business undertone in the battle for the soul of the fourth leading telecoms group in Nigeria.

According to the source, “The way things are now, the winner of the bid may not be named this year again as originally programmed due to some of these avoidable hitches; I don’t want to say interferences”.

“You know from day one when the CBN and NCC intervened and appointed Dr. Joseph Nnanna to prepare the firm for sale within 90 to 180 days, there were strong assurances that the deal will be concluded this year, but the way things are looking between the five bidding finalists, am worried if this year is still feasible unless issues were ironed out this weekend.

Otherwise, its next year, 2018 unfailingly”.

It would be recalled that the managing director of Fidelity Bank Plc, Mr. Nnamdi Okonkwo, had said that all the banks whose money is trapped are working together for smooth sale of the telecoms on or before the end of the year.

He had explained issues at a recent interactive session in September, with select editors and publishers in Lagos, saying “As you are aware, the creditor banks came together to appoint a new Board and Management for the company, with the Deputy Governor of the CBN as chairman of the Board”.

“The company has good fundamentals with about 22 million subscribers, and it is also very strong in data. Our interest is to ensure the company remains a going concern so that it can attract interested buyers. The banks are working collectively on this,” Fidelity bank chief executive revealed.

Etisalat, now 9mobile would have been grounded by the 13 consortium of banks following its default in paying back $1.2bn infrastructure upgrade and network loan, but for the intervention of both the CBN and the telecoms regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

Only last two weeks, indications emerged that odds favour Globacom or Teleology Holdings Limited, even as two other top five bidders were working on last minute joint venture deal to have upper hand over three others (names with held).

Whereas Glo remains the only indigenous telecom giant in the race with about 27 per cent in current control of the telecoms space in Nigeria, Teleology Holdings Limited is a special purpose vehicle (SPV), put up by some influential Nigerians with foreign stakeholders link (names with held) to bid for ownership of the company currently stressed by loan default.

Business Hilights Intelligence Unit (BHIU) gathered that the plot to merge was mulled between London, Lagos and Abuja within last weekend.

Sources said earlier merger plan was by four out of the five finalists before the arrangers observed that some of them may not be good bed fellows when the deed is done and therefore walked out remaining only two that can guarantee their compatibility on winning and running the 9mobile bid.

Explaining why the original four merging firms dropped to two, an official in the know of the deal confided in Business Hilights saying “Remember, after the razzmatazz of winning the bid, winners will go down to work and it will be a dangerous thing if only one or two of the partnering four discovered that they are incompatible after purchase payment”.

“So, those that know that they cannot work very well in the JV walked away leaving the last two or three or so.

“I think one of the reasons that caused walk out is issue of origin and character and not necessarily money. That’s what I can tell you now. Thank you