By Dipo Olowookere
Plans to handover troubled and debt-ridden 9mobile to a new investor have suffered huge setback with the court ruling on Wednesday.
9mobile, formerly Etisalat Nigeria, had been put up for sale as a result of its failure to repay the $1.2 billion it took few years ago from a consortium of banks in Nigeria for expansion of its operations.
Its former major investor, Etisalat Group, pulled out of the business in 2017, leading to the change of name to 9mobile after a new management team was constituted for it by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
Barclays Africa was later appointed to shop for new investors for the nation’s fourth largest telecommunications company.
Some weeks ago, Teleology Holdings Limited was announced as the preferred bidder with Smile Communications as standby.
But some aggrieved shareholders kicked against this, instituting a lawsuit to stop the sale of the company to new investors.
The shareholders, Afdin Ventures Limited and Dirbia Nigeria Limited, claimed they were not carried along by the firm and asked that their investments in 9mobile worth $43.330 million be returned to them before the process can continue.
According to the plaintiffs, they bought shares in Etisalat from Karlington Telecommunications Limited, Premium Telecommunications Holdings NV, the first and second defendants, through a private placement and should have been carried along in the sale of the firm to another investor, urging the court to stop the exercise.
Yesterday, Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court in Abuja ruled that status quo be maintained.
The judge held that the defendants “ought to be heard” and ordered that the writ be marked as concurrent, adjourning the matter to May 14 for mention.
The matter is with the suit number FHC/ABJ/CR/288/2018 with Karlington Telecommunications Limited, Premium Telecommunications Holdings NV, First Bank of Nigeria Plc, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Etisalat International Nigeria Limited and Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) as defendants.
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