By Chimezie Ndubisi
The sale of Nigerian operator 9mobile, formerly Etisalat, will now conclude on 16 January. following approval of the deadline extension by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). The previous deadline of 31 December 2017 could not be met. The move necessitated a request for extension by the board of directors of Emerging Markets Telecoms Services, owners of the 9mobile licence.
In a letter to Godwin Emefiele, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Umar Danbatta, executive vice chairman of NCC, acknowledged the risk posed by the year-end deadline for submission of binding offers by prospective bidders for the purchase of 9mobile.
The company was taken over in July 2017 following a 541 billion Naira debt overhang. Mubadala Group, the major investor from the United Arab Emirates, pulled out of Nigeria’s fourth largest mobile operator as a result of the debt owed to a consortium of thirteen banks.
Five bidders have made the final list of potential buyers – Teleology Holdings, promoted by Adrian Wood, the pioneer CEO of MTN Nigeria; Smile Telecoms Holdings, a telecom firm operating in Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Congo DR and South Africa; and Helios Investment Partners, an investment company. Other bidders include Bharti Airtel that owns Airtel Nigeria, and Globacom, Nigeria’s second national carrier. The telecom regulator, NCC, and the banking watchdog, CBN, are expected to play a key role in the final decision.