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MTN, others jostle 9mobile

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MTN Nigeria is among the several Nigerian companies that have indicated their interests to invest in the ailing 9mobile telecoms company by their expression of interest bids submitted to Barclays Bank who is charged with the responsibility of finding investors for the company.

Until recently, 9mobile was owned by EMTS Nigeria Ltd, a middle-east based company who was forced to yield its 45% stake in the struggling entity due to the inability to pay debts forcing the country’s apex bank to intervene.

About 16 entities have now submitted their Expression of Interests (EOI) bids to Barclays Bank with the view of taking over the management of the company.

Other leading contenders are Airtel Nigeria which is owned by an Indian Based company, Obot Etiebet & Co, Blackstone Private Equity, Tel-ology Holdings Limited, a special purpose vehicle, Ericsson; De-Elim Services Limited; Veittel, a firm owned by the investment arm of the Vietnamese military which has telecoms assets in Africa, AB-Bro Limited, a Nigerian venture company and Hamilton and George International Limited.

Other notable companies interested are Bua Group owned by billionaire Alhaji Abdulsamad Rabiu, Morning Side Capital Partners, promoted by Mr. Alex Otti, a former gubernatorial candidate and Africell, a subsidiary of the Lebanon-based Lintel Group of Companies with interest in other parts of Africa.

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9mobile, formerly Etisalat was few months engulfed in a debt crisis that nearly crippled the company until the CBN and NCC intervened.

The lenders were prevailed upon by the Central Bank of Nigeria to hold off on taking provisions for the syndicated loan and agreed to extend it after the apex bank intervened back in July this year.

As agreed with the apex bank, the lender banks have put a freeze on collecting the principal and interest payments on the syndicated loan pending new investors, in order to help the company survive. Barclays Bank was then charged with finding new investors for the company to return it back to its profitable ways.

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