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BUA group, others race to buy 9Mobile



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Investigation by National Daily has revealed that BUA Group, Virgin Mobile from the United Kingdom and Vodacom of South Africa are some of the companies in the running to buy 9Mobile, formerly Etisalat Nigeria.

A few others have also signified interest to takeover 9Mobile which still enjoys large patronage and loyalty despite its crisis.

The number one item on negotiations with investors is the offset its $1.2 billion bank loan.

BUA, Virgin and Vodacom are set to submit their memoranda of interest and technical presentations.

The banks have appointed advisers, which include Standard Bank of South Africa and Citibank of New York, to receive and evaluate bids.

Investigation by National Daily revealed that every bid will then be reviewed before they are tendered to the board of new directors.

Trouble started when Etisalat Group disclosed on the Abu Dhabi Stock Exchange two weeks ago that it had pulled out of Etisalat Nigeria and was transferring 45 per cent of its stake and 25 per cent of its preference shares in its Nigerian subsidiary to United Capital Trustees Limited, the legal representative of the lending banks.

Aside Etisalat Group, other shareholders of Etisalat Nigeria include Mubadala Development Company with a 40 per cent stake and Emerging Markets Telecommunications Services (EMTS), representing the Nigerian shareholders, with 15 per cent.

Etisalat Nigeria had in 2013 approached a consortium of 13 local banks for a loan of $1.2 billion for network upgrade and expansion. The money was sourced in dollar and naira denominations.

However, citing the economic downturn of 2015-2016 and naira devaluation, which negatively impacted on the dollar-denominated component of the loan, Etisalat wrote its creditors informing them of its intention to halt the repayment of the loan in instalments, until such a time that it was able to raise more money.

The banks involved in the loan deal are: Zenith Bank, GTBank, FirstBank, UBA, Fidelity Bank, Access Bank, Ecobank, FCMB, Stanbic IBTC Bank and Union Bank.

Zenith Bank has the highest exposure to Etisalat amounting to $262 million and N80 billion, GTBank has the second highest exposure of $138 million and N42 billion, Access Bank follows with $131 million and N40 billion.

ALSO SEE: NCC okays 9Mobile as telco unveils new identity


Etisalat Nigeria also owes UBA $125 million and N38 billion; FirstBank – $79 million and N24 billion; Fidelity Bank – $56 million and N17 billion; Stanbic IBTC – $25 million and N7.5 billion; FCMB – $15 million and N4.5 billion; and Ecobank – $10 million and N3.1 billion.

But Etisalat Nigeria had countered this information, stating that it had paid $500 million up till February 2017. It said the outstanding loan to the lenders stands at $227 million and N113 billion, a total of about $574 million if the naira portion is converted to US dollars.

In their argument, bank officials insist they had financed the importation and purchase of the towers through Huawei of China to help build the infrastructure backbone for Etisalat and that when the company earned foreign currencies from the sale, it failed to repay its US dollar loans as was done by other telcos like MTN and Airtel.

Etisalat Nigeria, after its take over by banks, constituted a new board following gale of resignations.

Hakeem Bello-Osagie first resigned as Chairman.

A few days later, chief executive officer (CEO), Mr. Matthew Willsher, and chief financial officer (CFO), Mr. Wole Obasunloye, both stepped down.

In the new board is a deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and chairman of African Finance Corporation (AFC) as its chairman.

Boye Olusanya, chief executive officer of 9mobile, said the new logo was in conformity with the new name and reflects the bold and creative attributes which the company shared with its valued subscribers.

According to him, the rebranding will enable the company to connect more with its subscribers, especially the youth.

“In our nine years of operations, we have remained at the forefront of innovation and take pride in consistently delivering superior experiences to our subscribers.

“We continue to establish meaningful partnerships with our customers and partners by providing platforms that support their goals and aspirations”.

Olusanya said that the new name and brand were a deliberate representation and confirmation of its Nigerian heritage.

He added that that though the company’s name and brand changed, the values on which it operated remained the same.

“The colour green, both its light and dark variants, reflects vibrancy, dynamism, life and youth, as well as the brand’s ‘Nigerianness’.


“With the launch of our new brand, our commitment to providing our subscribers with best-in-class telecommunications services continues.

“We live in a digitalised world and 9mobile is positioned to deliver more platforms, products and services, using the power of technology.

“The vivacity of our new brand is an affirmation of our creativity and the recent launch of value adding services, such as our BlazeOn and Kwikcash platforms, are testaments to this”, Olusanya added.

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