Any hopes that the 13 banks Etisalat owes about $1.2 billion of taking over the network could as well have disappeared, as the tough stance of the 2 key industry regulators involved remain an ‘amicable resolution’. The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the country’s ICT regulator had earlier made it clear that it would not allow the banks to take over the country’s 4th largest network.
Similarly, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the financial sector regulator, has come out to say would not support any “hostile takeover” as it jeopardizes the federal government’s effort to attract Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) into Nigeria’s ailing economy. “They (the banks) cannot do that by just taking a decision like that. Etisalat is not transferring any license to any consortium of banks. We are going to resolve it amicably. The CBN and NCC are working towards resolving it amicably,” All Africa reports.
The 13 Nigerian lenders led by Access Bank Plc had earlier threatened to take over Etisalat as it could not continue payment of its $1.2 billion loan. This is as Ibrahim Dikko, vice president for regulatory affairs, says the company current debt to the banks is $575 million.
While defend Etisalat, anyway? While the going was good, Etisalat kept true to the repayment plan. It was however the sudden devaluation of the Naira, the currency in which it earns, that made the loan, collected and to be repaid in dollars, bloated. The regulators may in a flash of guilt, recognize the roles the government has played in Etisalat’s current predicament. Similarly, as the CBN said, foreign investors will already be deterred by the news of the UAE brand abandoning the company. The case will be much worse if the government sits back and watches the company sold off in bits. Thus, in what can be best described as damage control, the regulators are trying to save whatever ashes are left from the fire.