$1.2bn Debt: New Investors Take Over 9mobile In 6 Months

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Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, disclosed this while providing fresh insight into the telco’s operations at the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting in Abuja yesterday. According to Emefiele, the advisers have also been appointed to chart a way for new investors for the troubled telecom firm. Already, the CBN governor said potential investors had shown interest and that expression of interests would be opened with advisers advertising the bidding process to the business community.

“The company’s Advisers have been appointed to provide a process for major investors to intervene in the company and take it over. Potential investors have shown interest, so what would happen is that, these interests would be made opened; the advisers would advertise for RSP, everybody can conduct their due diligence after that.

The best will win. Therefore, we are not moved at all for the change,” he said. He also explained that the intervention by the apex bank and the telecoms regulator was done to avert possible job losses as well as protecting the interest of stakeholders.

It would be recalled that the company changed its name from Etisalat to 9Mobile after its foreign partners pulled out. 9Mobile has been facing some financial crises since Mubadala Development Company of United Arab Emirates, the company’s largest shareholder, pulled out its investment from the country.

Mubadala, an Abu Dhabi Government-owned investment and development company, controls about 70 per cent of the shares in Etisalat along with Etisalat UAE mobile, with Emerging Markets Telecommunications Services (EMTS), promoted by Hakeem Bello- Osagie, owning the remaining 30 per cent. Although reports from NCC revealed that Etisalat had been attracting more subscribers porting from other networks to its network, it has, however, lost over 3.5 million subscribers.

 

However, Emefiele said in spite of its seeming challenge at the moment, 9Mobile recorded N16 billion revenue in June this year.

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“The issue is that, whereas the regulators, the NCC and the CBN, in this case, businesses and companies that operate in the telecoms market, should operate profitably, but we also expected that whatever decision they take should not be such that would affect other stakeholders in that industry.

“We all know that Etisalat is one of the four biggest telecommunication firms in Nigeria, with a subscriber base of over 20 million; and of course, we also know that the revenue base of the company is also very robust.

“It is important that we should not just allow any creditor who feels disadvantaged, to take a decision that hurts other important stakeholders that operate within Etisalat.

 

“That was what the NCC and the CBN observed that the activities and the attempt by some creditors were going to leave a dismemberment of that company and we could not allow the millions of subscribers to be running helter-skelter without services, and that we could not allow 4,000 or more employees of this company to just run in disarray because something wrong has happened,” he added. Emefiele explained the reason why NCC, supported by the CBN, decided to intervene.

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“We only came in to say, ‘please gentlemen, we understand all your interests in this company either you are a creditor or stakeholder, let’s take things easily so that we do not hurt the interest of others who also have interest in this company,” said Emefiele while justifying the intervention.

 

 

According to him, “the intervention has been positive, and Etisalat has retained its subscriber base. Its 4,000 staff have continued their work and, indeed, the revenue for the month of June has remained stable at not less than N16 billion.

 

“A lot of people, who were watching from the sideline thought that Etisalat’s revenue was going to drop drastically and that there was going to be slide to subscriber base, but that was not the case.

“The intervention through the institutionalisations of an interim board, headed by the regulators, I must say here is temporary and our plan is that it should not take more than maximum 90 to 180 days.”

 

Also, Mr. Adebayo Shittu, the Minister of Communications, yesterday said the Federal Government stepped in to the crisis to save Nigerian employees as well as subscribers. Shittu, in a statement issued by Mr. Henshaw Ogubike, the Deputy Director, Press in the ministry, said the Federal Government would not fold its hand and allow the company to die, in view of its economic importance to the nation.

 

According to him, about 20 million Nigerians subscribe to the network, many are employed by it, Nigerian banks are stakeholders, hence the government’s quick intervention to rescue the company from creditors determined to take over the company.

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The minister assured the management that the Federal Government would always support the telecommunication sector by providing an enabling environment for the industry to thrive. Earlier, Mr. Boye Olusanya, leader of 9Mobile management team, commended the minister for the role he had played to ensure that the company did not fold up.

 

Boye requested the minister to also intervene in the areas of multiple taxation, foreign exchange, Right of Way (RoW) and security of infrastructure that would ease operations in the sector.

According to NCC, 9Mobile subscribers have crashed from 22 million to 18.5 million as at the end of May this year.

Apparently realising the financial difficulty being faced by Etisalat (now 9Mobile), following its $1.2 billion loan crisis, advisors have been appointed for the mobile telecommunication firm to scout for major investors for the company.

The appointment of the advisers was made by the new board at the telco in collaborations with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigerian Communications Commis-sion (NCC).

The regulators said the processes for new investors to take over the telecommunication firm are expected to be completed between 90 and 180 days. The investors will take over the troubled telecoms company for proper operation and financial turnaround. Governor of the Central

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