Airtel Nigeria did not submit a final bid for mobile operator, 9mobile despite being on the shortlist of five, according to TheCable. Also, although Globacom and Helios Investment Partners submitted bids, they did not make any financial offer for the troubled operator. The daily reported that Teleology Holdings submitted a bid of over USD 500 million while Smile Telecoms quoted close to USD 300 million. Effectively, only two companies made financial offers by the 16 January deadline.
Airtel’s U-turn came as a surprise to industry experts who had expected the company to push all the way through in order to become the largest operator in the country. It would automatically have grown from being number three to number one by increasing its numbers to 52 million for voice and 33.5 million for internet if it emerged the preferred bidder. TheCable says that Airtel decided to pull out because “many things are not too plain with the entire process”.
Spectrum Wireless, a shareholder of Emerging Markets Telecommunications Service (EMTS) — which owns the 9mobile licence — went to court against United Capital Trustees — representatives of the debtors — in order to stop the constitution of an interim board for 9mobile after the take-over in July 2017. Although it lost the case then, the federal high court later nullified the ex parte order, and United Securities has now gone on appeal. Airtel, which started out as Econet Wireless in 2001, went through a litany of boardroom crises as a result of litigation.