The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has maintained there will be no going back on the January 16th deadline for the conclusion of the sale of GSM operator 9Mobile. Executive Commissioner in charge of Stakeholders Affairs, Sunday Dare disclosed.
Dare also revealed that the eventual winner would undergo additional due diligence checks, and the regulator was in favour of consolidation of the sector.
The sale was initially billed to have been concluded in December last year, but was sifted following a request made by the board of the telco to the NCC. The board had asked for the extension, so the bidders could have enough time to prepare their final bids. The commission, in turn informed the CBN.
The final 5 bidders
The top five bidders who made it to the final stage of the bidding process are Airtel, Globacom, Smile, Helios, and Teleology Holdings Limited. Teleology holdings is a joint venture between Ex MTN CEO Adrian Wood and Ericcson. Globacom is one of Nigeria’s 3 major GSM operators and is owned by billionaire businessman Mike Adenuga. Smile is an Africa focused telco with operations in Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda. Helios is a private equity firm.
Why 9Mobile is being sold
9Mobile (then known as Etisalat Nigeria) defaulted on a $1.2 billion loan it had obtained from a consortium of banks led by GT Bank. The default led to parent company Etisalat of the UAE pulling out and the banks threatening to take over the firm. They were however prevented from doing so by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). An interim board was subsequently appointed.
The lenders were prevailed upon by the Central Bank of Nigeria to hold off on taking provisions for the syndicated loan and agreed to extend it after the apex bank intervened back in July this year.