Buyer yet to emerge as deadline for sale of 9mobile ends
Bidders to wait for two more weeks
The deadline for the sale of 9Mobile, formerly Etisalat Nigeria, lapsed yesterday without the process producing a major buyer.
The Guardian learnt that the five bidders left in the race, Globacom, Airtel, Helios, Teleology and Smile Communications, would have to wait for another two weeks to know which of them will take over the assets and liabilities of the 9Mobile.
The sale of 9Mobile was one of the major anticipated deals in the telecommunications sector in 2017. Government regulators who averted the forceful takeover of the telecommunications firm by a consortium of lending banks promised that the deal would be closed yesterday and that a major investor would emerge.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) had set a six-month deadline from June 2017 for new investors to take over the affairs of the telecommunications firm when it had problem with its investors from the Middle East over failure to redeem a $1.2 billion debt to the banks.
Sources informed The Guardian that the appointed financial advisor, Barclays Africa, requested for an extension of the deadline to resolve some thorny issues.
“The processes remain transparent. Barclays Africa has asked for extension to be able to complete the whole processes neatly. This is in agreement with the lending banks. I think they are looking at mid-January to finish the deal. The calibre of firms competing makes it difficult for any rash decision to be taken without proper and adequate checks,” she stated.
According to her, any company that will emerged as the preferred bidder must possess demonstrable technical competence.
It had been revealed that the bidders mulled alliance to swing the entire process. Technology Times disclosed that four players planned to team up to pull off a major coup in their bid to buy 9mobile as the springboard towards achieving leadership in the Nigerian telecoms market.
The architects of the alliance intended to pool resources that would bring to the table an unbeatable offer that would make them secure control of 9Mobile.
From India, Bharti Airtel had ruled out exit from Africa, but promised to remain focused on strategic acquisition on the continent. Globacom, according to industry trends, is seriously looking for means to become the largest operator in Nigeria.
Market analysts believe that the battle for the soul of 9Mobile is strictly between Globacom and Airtel because of their financial war chest and experiences in the Nigerian market. Should either of them be successful in the bid, the additional connections will see the winner overtaking MTN as market leader.
Airtel is currently the third largest operator in Nigeria with with 35 million customers as at October 2017, representing 25 per cent market share. Globacom is next to MTN, controlling 26.6 per cent of market share with 37 million customers. The embattled 9Mobile has 17 million customers, which represents 12.2 per cent of the market. MTN, with 50.7 million customers, controls 36 per cent.
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