Nigeria’s central bank and telecoms regulator expressed “serious concerns” about how Barclays Africa is handling the sale of 9mobile. The authorities believe companies with strong financial standing and advanced technical capabilities were dropped from the final bidding process.
In a joint letter, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) said they want the sale process to be “transparent and fair”, but stated financial adviser Barclays Africa had “repeatedly exhibited signs of opacity”.
“Given the overriding public interest in the company and the need for transparency, we advised that Barclays advertise the call for ‘expression of interest’. Barclays declined, insisting instead that the company, being a private one, should not be taken through a public sale,” the pair wrote.
“This lack of a transparent process has proven to be selective and arbitrary, leading to allegations that the process is being teleguided to a rigged and predetermined outcome. The CBN and the NCC will not fold their arms and allow this to materialise,” they added.
Umar Danbatta, executive vice-chairman of NCC, and CBN governor Godwin Emefiele said their concerns were heightened following complaints from stakeholders, including some bidders.
CBN and NCC called for all decisions taken by the financial adviser to be approved by them in writing and said a 31 December deadline for the handover of 9mobile to the preferred bidders is “sacrosanct”.
The letter was sent to GTBank, the facility agent for a $1.2 billion loan Etisalat Nigeria was unable to pay to a consortium of banks, leading to parent Etisalat terminating a management agreement and the operator being rebranded as 9mobile.
Ten companies reportedly moved to the financial stage of the bid process, including Globacom Nigeria Limited, Bharti Airtel, Smile Telecoms Holdings, Helios Towers and Africell.
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