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Why 13 creditor banks suddenly seized fire on 9mobile, formally Etisalat

Two weeks of undercover investigations by Business Hilights Economic Research Team (BHERT) on why the rush and aggression deployed by the consortium of 13 banks fighting for their trapped $1.2bn at Etisalat Nigeria, now 9Mobile suddenly eased has paid off.

Result; They have noticed that efforts of the combined team of telecoms regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) have not only positioned the company for sale, but have given 90 to 180 days to so.

Secondly, they have also observed that the first thing to be done immediately a new investor is confirmed will be to pay off the money.

A usually dependable source in one of the banks confided in our correspondent on Wednesday in Lagos that another window that paved way for the ease of fire is the apex bank seems to have equally eased tension over issues bordering on non-performing loans (NPLs) especially for banks that are hugely affected in the defaulted syndicated loan.

According to the official, all the 13 banks, but two (names with held) are comfortable with the new restructuring and the erosion of former board at the heat of the crisis, saying “All the banks saw the ongoing transition process as very credible and worthy of support so far there is a time limit”.

Besides, considering the revelation made by Mr. Ibrahim Dikko, during a recent courtesy visit to the regulator, where he decried the loss of about $2bn foreign direct investment coming from Mudabala group in Dubai, it was not clear if the pressure from banks was to tap into the fund which is even more than enough to clear the default. But that failed to materialize after all.

Another source from FCMB had noted that “In terms of provisioning, there is hold on that. What we have agreed is an extension and we have agreed to extend pending the sale to new investors,” the bank told an analysts call, after it published half-year results”

FCMB, which is owed 4.5 billion naira by the telecoms group, said lenders had put a hold on taking provisions on the debt and that they were working with the regulators.

It would be recalled that after long period of wait, the banks attempted to annex the firm, but for the timely and strategic intervention of the NCC and CBN.

However, followers of the matter had expressed worry on why the Minister of Communication, Barr. Adebayo Shittu cleverly stayed distant from the issue, just unlike his vocal involvement during the SIM card registration breach by the MTN and the resultant $5.2bn fine which the minister followed till it was reduced and a payment schedule worked out.

Other banks involved in the loan deal include, Zenith Bank , GT Bank, First Bank, UBA , Fidelity Bank, Access Bank, Ecobank, FCMB, Stanbic IBTC Bank and Union Bank.

GT Bank with $138 million in outstanding loans to 9mobile and Access Bank with $131 million are among the most exposed.

During a recent thank you visit to the NCC, 9mobile Chief Executive, Boye Olusanya, noted that the focus of his management is on getting the telecoms group back on track to make a profit, while working on the paperwork to eventually raise new capital. He has also asked the telecoms regulator for concessions on spectrum and foreign exchange access to help to shore up revenues.

In keeping with the tempo and work schedule given to the interim board headed by Dr. Joseph Nnanna, former Deputy Governor of the apex bank, the still embattled telecoms group has hired Citigroup and Standard Bank to find investors to buy into the firm.

There have been poorly confirmed reports of contenders, but their names had been kept secret.