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Banks to Handover 9mobile to New Buyer January 16

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

There are strong indications that come Tuesday, January 16, 2018, the new owner of troubled 9mobile would emerge and made known to the general public.

This is because the issuer of the operating licence of the debt ridden telecoms firm, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), which is also the regulatory agency for the industry, has insisted that deadline for the sale of the company would not go beyond January 16.

December 31, 2017 was earlier fixed for the unveiling of the new owner of 9mobile, but the process was not concluded then, which necessitated the postponement.

However, NCC said the new date would not be extended again.

The regulatory agency made this clarification following reports online that the sale of 9mobile had been extended to February 16, 2018.

Executive Commissioner in charge of Stakeholders Management at the NCC, Mr Sunday Dare, stressed that January 16 remains the final judgement day.

Financial Advisors of the deal, Barclays Africa, has shortlisted five firms, one of which would emerge the preferred bidder for the telecommunications firm.

The final five top bidders are Airtel, Globacom, Smile Communications, Teleology Holdings Limited and Helios Investment Partners.

Teleology Holdings Limited is being promoted by pioneer Chief Executive Officer of MTN Nigeria, Adrian Wood; Smile Telecoms Holdings, an operator in Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Congo DR and South Africa; and Helios Investment Partners LLP, an investment company.

Others are Bharti Airtel, promoters of Airtel Nigeria and Mike Adenuga’s Globacom. Airtel and Globacom are the only Nigerian operators on the list.

It was gathered that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), NCC and the lending 13 banks, led by GTBank Plc, would decide on a preferred and reserve bidders.

Last week, Business Post reported that Globacom may lose out of the deal because of some issues; however, there are strong indications that two of the bidders may consider consolidation.

This, according to Mr Dare, is in the best interest of the industry and may play a key role in determining who finally gets to buy the nation’s fourth largest telecommunications operator.

“Nigeria can learn a lot from the Indian telecoms experience of consolidation and market competition in the development of the telecoms market. The consumer in India now enjoys lots of benefits and cheap data,” he told TheCable.

9mobile, formerly Etisalat Nigeria, secured a syndicated loan of $1.2 billion from 13 Nigerian banks to expand its operations in the country.

However, the firm was later unable to meet up with the repayment plan.

This had earlier forced the banks to take over the company, but the CBN and the NCC prevented this from happening so as not to send a wrong signal to foreign investors.

A new management was set up to run the firm for six months pending the time a new buyer was found.

Since its troubles started, the network and its services have not been the same again, leaving its over 15 million subscribers frustrated.

Since its debt impasse, 9mobile has lost over one million subscribers. The sale of the company, which would result into injection of capital into the firm, might revive it and make it compete well again with other operators in the country.

9mobile, then as Etisalat Nigeria, joined the industry as the fourth in 2009 and shook the sector by storm with the strategy of allowing subscribers choose their unique phone numbers.

Modupe Gbadeyanka is a fast-rising journalist with Business Post Nigeria. Her passion for journalism is amazing. She is willing to learn more with a view to becoming one of the best pen-pushers in Nigeria. Her role models are the duo of CNN's Richard Quest and Christiane Amanpour.

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