Business Hilights
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Knocks for Smile Telecoms over derogatory comments on sale of 9moblie to Teleology

The recent description of the entire process leading to the naming of Teleology Holdings Limited as the preferred bid winners of 9mobile as ‘untidy’ by the reserved bidder, Smile Telecoms, has started attracting condemnations from stakeholders in the industry.

Smile had observed in a protest letter addressed to Barclays Africa, dated February 21, and signed by Templars; the company’s solicitors, that the manner in which the financial advisors to the deal, has so far managed the transaction remains untidy, and therefore needs a review to enthrone transparency and fairness.

However, a number of industry leaders who had been following the process chided Smile telecoms, saying time has come for losers in either elections or bidding process to accept final results with the spirit of sportsmanship than anger and barrage of condemnations.

They argued that the process which Smile had followed till the end was clear and every rule of engagement was followed till the end.

According to an industry enthusiast who pleaded anonymity, “If am correct, we were made to understand that Smile was among the very last five out of about 16 contenders who expressed interest”.

“For Smile to remain in the bidding process till the end means in the first instance that it has confidence in the bidding. Just like Airtel pulled out during the last lap and kept quiet on grounds of poor communications from the processors, Smile would have done the same, but it rather went ahead to name a price lower than what teleology gave to win. So where is the innocence in Smile’s new strange position?”

The expert also queried Smile over the letter, saying “Time has come to allow teleology to go to work on 9mobile to avoid further delay that may end up forcing the company to apply for bankruptcy which will spell doom for the industry and over 20 million subscribers”.

“It is unfair for a club to petition the running process of a league it clearly subscribed to simply because it lost out at the end,” the pundit added.

Smile telecoms had in the letter rejected what it described as the act of announcing the Preferred Bidder before the stated deadline of February 26, 2018, as earlier stated in a process letter to interested parties.

However, Smile argued that the best way to establish transparency in the bid process, will be for Barclays Africa to urgently provide a “practicable with verifiable (and preferably third-party authenticated) proof” that the party that has been selected as preferred bidder has indeed satisfied all the conditions precedent to that selection.

Though in a reply to Smile Telecoms dated February 26, 2018, Barclays Africa promised to “be in touch with Smile to discuss any updates on the transaction, to the extent considered necessary,” Smile feels shortchanged after going far and coming close to hitting gold.

While welcoming what it saw as Smile’s continued interest in the transaction, the transaction Advisors averred that its clients exercised their rights at their sole discretion to pursue an alternative path to completion of the Transaction.

Even though Barclays had officially replied Smile Telecoms, a top staff at Smile revealed that Barclays reply avoided critical issues raised in the petition relating to the surprise emergence of teleology Holdings Limited as new operators of 9restated its willingness to explore Transaction completion with Smile should the pending process not reach a satisfactory conclusion.

Business Hilights further gathered that top in the key issues of Smile’s worries include  if the Preferred Bidder will be able to meet the laid down requirements for the transactions that required it to reach agreement on any required financial accommodations with the Syndicate Lenders and the Trade Creditors.

Also, another issue is the readiness of the Preferred Bidder to have firm, unconditional and committed funding for any cash payments and to provide a binding offer that is unconditional, excluding the Formal Licence Approvals.

The nation’s telecoms regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) had earlier last month (probably when the letters were flying up and down), issued a statement assuring that only investors with the required technical expertise and financial muscle will buy 9Mobile.

The terse statement signed by the NCC’s director, Public Affairs, Mr. Tony Ojobo made it clear that NCC will make sure that all relevant statutory and regulatory processes are duly complied with in the process leading up to the emergence of new owners for the company.

The statement to s a very large extent raised issues of suspicion on the side of Barclays’ competence in handling the process.

Within the period under review, stakeholders expressed worry on why the regulator who gave the job to Barclays Africa is turning round to raise issues of stress test on a firm it had given mandate to prepare and sale 9mobile after all.

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