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Uncertainty over 9mobile acquisition

Uncertainty over 9Mobile acquisition

A new brand name may soon emerge for Nigeria's fourth largest telecom operator whose 20 million subscriber base has been diminishing.

Immediately after defaulting on debt repayments last year, Etisalat was managed by Emerging Markets Telecommunication Services Limited (EMTS). Afterwards, the troubled telco was renamed 9Mobile. Now, according to indications from the market, the telco is set to be managed by a fourth company in just over a year.

Reports say Teleology Holdings Limited could be the new owner. This follows an acquisition process supervised by Barclays Africa.

There were 16 bidders at first - including Globacom and Airtel - but they were trimmed to five then three. Teleology is a private equity firm with an investment portfolio of US$11bn. Teleology, which has been associated to the pioneer CEO of MTN Nigeria, Adrian Wood, reportedly offered more than US$500 million to acquire 9mobile.

However, Teleology Holdings is yet to be officially declared the preferred bidder. The air has to be cleared by the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) and the Central Bank of Nigeria in this regard.

The two institutions have played key roles in the acquisition process thus far. The NCC as the country's telecom regulator and the CBN represents the interest of 13 local banks which gave out a US$1.2 billion syndicated loan to Etisalat Nigeria.

The NCC and the CBN late last year criticised how Barclays Africa was handling the sale. Also, earlier this month, they approved the extension of the acquisition time by the 9Mobile Interim Board.

Hence, the deadline to receive binding offers from the bidders was set from 31 December 2017 to 16 January 2018.

According to the sales transfer procedure, both the NCC and CBN have to be duly notified once the 9Mobile Interim Board accepts Barclays Africa's recommendations. The winner will then apply to NCC in order to commence the processes for securing the regulatory approvals from the Board of the NCC necessary to give full effect to the transfer.

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