Business Hilights
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Can Ovia stir disruptions to begin second missionary journey with 9Moblie?

Though very limited number of analysts can direct their guesses along this line, it may not be out place for the young smart driven banker, Mr. Jim Ovia to take a second chance in the Nigerian telecoms industry.

Given his resilience to drive the last standing CDMA to a good sale at a time others dried up without a comfortable soft landing like Visafone, there are strong conviction that picking up 9Mobile either alone, or in partnership with chairman of Heirs Holdings, Mr. Tony Elumelu may be the surprise but matching investors needed to strike the cord.

Ovia, according to industry observers has the background experience in managing a telecom and his personal image is backed by excellent business intelligence within the period he was driving Zenith Bank growth and consolidation.

Having been nursing the desire to drive telecoms growth over the years, the emerging scenario may after all, present yet another opportunity for him to achieve his dream and ride on already blossoming public goodwill to deepen the image of the troubled telecom and grow subscriber base along with inspirational quality of service.

It is important to understand that the design to sale Visafone has no link with failure but a hard decision prompted by the unprecedented squeeze mounted on the sub sector by GSM majors within the period.

9MobileHowever, lead to this logic of reasoning cannot be unconnected with the involvement of Zenith Bank, which has the controlling share of the loan amounting to $262 million and N80 billion.

Ovia is the chairman of the bank and still has other financial securities capable of guaranteeing even an overdraft to hit the nail on the head of 9Mobile.

Analysts say with Zenith Bank on his side, discussions with other banks may not be too cumbersome as mutual understanding will come to play via the confirmed business intelligence coming with Ovia to turnaround the telecom in record time after all.

Already, the banks have appointed advisers, which include Standard Bank of South Africa and Citibank of New York, to receive and evaluate bids from pretenders and contenders.

Sources say every bid will be reviewed before they are tendered to the board of new directors.

Though pundits had felt that leading national carrier, Globacom has the best structure and comparative advantage to buy up 9Mobile, it has not shown any sign of interest.

Business Hilights recalls that Zenith Bank has the highest exposure to Etisalat amounting to $262 million and N80 billion; GTBank has the second highest exposure of $138 million and N42 billion; Access Bank follows with $131 million and N40 billion.

Other are UBA, $125 million and N38 billion; FirstBank – $79 million and N24 billion; Fidelity Bank – $56 million and N17 billion; Stanbic IBTC – $25 million and N7.5 billion; FCMB – $15 million and N4.5 billion; and Ecobank – $10 million and N3.1 billion.

If the repeated position of 9Mobile that it had paid $500 million up till February 2017 is anything to go by, the outstanding loan to banks then stands at $227 million and N113 billion.

This amount can be sourced by Ovia using his fraternity in the banking sector which spanned for decades.

Trouble had started for formerly Etisalat Nigeria, now 9Mobile when on July 10, 2017, with its over 21 million subscribers, given three weeks to phase out its brand in Nigeria, after its Abu Dhabi arm pulled out and new board members were appointed to run the affairs the company.

This stemmed from the failed negotiations with its lenders over a missed payment of $1.2 billion loan taken out from a consortium of 13 Nigerian banks in 2013 for network upgrade and expansion.

The syndicated loan was sourced in dollar and naira denominations. But the naira devaluation occasioned by the economic recession that set in about two years ago, significantly affected the repayment of the dollar-denominated component of the loan.