Smile Communications Nigeria may lose its place as the second preferred bidder in the ongoing 9mobile sale.
According to reports from Thisday, Smile Communications failure to disclose that its Nigerian shareholders have an ongoing and challenging debt to a consortium of banks is threatening its position as the reserve bidder for the sale of 9mobile.
It was discovered that Smile Communication Nigerian partners and shareholders are indebted to banks to the tune of $125 million a material fact they ought to have disclosed at the beginning of the bidding process. An allegation the company has vehemently denied.
According to reports, the company has been accused of not only presenting false information in the bidding process but also attempting to derail the ongoing sale of the telecoms company by Barclays Africa.
The company yesterday issued a statement denying ever defaulting on its loan obligations. It, however, added that the false allegation was an attempt to derail the ongoing House of Representatives investigation into the process that led to the emergence of Teleology Holdings as the preferred bidder.
Recall that Smile Communications had written a letter to the Financial Advisor in the bid process Barclays Africa. In the letter, it faulted the process, in which Barclays Africa, announced Teleology Holdings as the preferred bidder.
The Teleco, 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. Some of the banks have since taken provisions on the loan.
The Central Bank has also promised to carry out a financial check on the winner of the 9mobile auction while the Nigerian Communications Commission will focus on the buyer’s technical competence and quality service to its subscribers.
Smile Telecoms provides a 4G LTE mobile broadband services, it obtained its operating license from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in 2009, and in 2014, launched its 4G/LTE network covering eight cities in Nigeria