Business Hilights
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9mobile: Two out five final bidders working on last minute JV deal

Considering that odds favour Globacom or Teleology Holdings Limited, indications emerged Wednesday showing that two (names with held), out of the three remaining finalists including Airtel, Smile and Helios Group are currently working on a surprise push for joint venture to effectively swing big win come end of the month.

Whereas Glo remains the only indigenous telecom giant in the race with about 27 per cent 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 the weekend, but details are still sketchy as at Wednesday evening.

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. Don’t quote me.

“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.

It would be recalled that five finalist bidders made the list of companies certified to buy 9mobile formerly called Etisalat Nigeria.

The challenge of the embattled firm started when it defaulted syndicated $1.2 billion loan deal with a consortium of banks.

Currently, MTN Nigeria, which is currently the biggest by subscriber base, comfortably lead the market with over 50 million active lines ahead of Glo mobile, 37 million at Q3 2017.

At end of October market numbers and share of the pie were split among MTN with 50,720,702

(36.14%) active lines; Glo with 37,418,933 (26.66%); Airtel; 35,089,690 (25.00%) and 9mobile; 17,121,058 (12.20%).

Business Hilights recalls that at the beginning, 16 companies including MTN, Airtel, Ntel, Virgin Mobile from the United Kingdom and Vodacom of South Africa had tendered expressions of interest (EoIs) to Barclays, 9mobile’s financial advisor.

Others are BUA Group, Morning Side Capital Partners, Obot Etiebet & Co, Blackstone Private Equity, and Hamilton and George International Limited.

But the major hurdle that separated boys from men bordered on issues of meeting bank guarantee of $100m which led to the short listing of five.