In spite of numerous media reports that it has changed its operating name to 9Mobile, authorities at Etisalat Nigeria are yet to issue any official statement.
Etisalat, which controls a 13 per cent market share in Nigeria, has had a running battle with a consortium of 13 banks since March after it notified them of its inability to service its $1.2 billion debt in February.
A source who spoke to National Daily said the telecom company was truly dropping Etisalat as its operating name but no firm decision has been made in that regard.
“A number of options are being considered but no final decision has been made,” the source said, declining to confirm whether 9Mobile is among the options being considered by the telecom company.
Etisalat Nigeria was prompted to change its operating name after its foreign partner, Dubai-based Emirates Telecommunications Corporation (ETC), which controls 45 per cent shareholding in Etisalat Nigeria, gave the Nigerian arm three weeks within which it must change the brand name.
The source who spoke with National Daily said the telecom firm was hard done by the volatile foreign exchange rates and negative economic growth in Nigeria. But an official of the company said in June that about 42 per cent of the loan had been repaid.
“As at today, we can categorically state that the outstanding loan sum to the consortium (of banks) stands at $227 million and N113 billion, a total of about $574 million if the naira portion is converted to US dollars. This, in essence, means almost half of the original loan of $1.2 billion, has been repaid,” said Ibrahim Dikko, Etisalat Nigeria’s vice president, Regulatory and Corporate Affairs.
However, Etisalat Nigeria last week, via a statement, insisted that the withdrawal of the right to use the name in Nigeria by ETC would not disrupt its services in the country.
“Emerging Markets Telecommunication Services Limited, trading as Etisalat Nigeria hereby assures its customers and other stakeholders that Etisalat Group’s reported withdrawal of the right to the continued use of the Etisalat brand in Nigeria by EMTS does not in any way imply discontinuation of our business as Nigeria’s fourth largest mobile service provider,” read part of the statement.
A Nigerian telecom industry expert had told National Daily that the name change was inevitable following the departure of ETC from Nigeria. But the official said he did not think services to subscribers would be impacted negatively.
“It appears that this change in name from Etisalat Nigeria will hopefully not mean a change for the worst in terms of the quality of service Etisalat was known for in its data service offering,” said Olusola Teniola, who is the president of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria.
“We expect a proactive communication from the new management of what this means to their loyal customers.”