N377bn debt: Etisalat begs UBA, Zenith Bank, 11 others for more time

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By Odunewu Segun

Etisalat Nigeria, an affiliate of Abu Dhabi-listed telecoms company, Etisalat has appealed to 13 Nigerian banks over a $1.2 billion loan facilities the company took in 2013, and its inability to meet up with scheduled payments.

National Daily gathered that the company is in talks with the banks to renegotiate the terms of the loan after missing payment to avoid a possible take-over by the 13 Nigerian lenders.

According to Etisalat Nigeria’s Vice President for regulatory affairs, Etisalat missed payments due to the economic downturn in Nigeria, a currency devaluation and dollar shortages on the country’s interbank market.

He said Etisalat is still in talks with its bankers. “They have not taken over the business and we are hoping that we can resolve the issue and find a way to renegotiate terms,” he explained.

Dikko said the business performed well last year and it was still in profit at the level of earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation, while loan repayments had been up to date “until recently”.

He said that the company was now looking at “all the options”, which could include converting the loan into naira, but did not want to anticipate the outcome of talks with the lenders.

Meanwhile, a source inside one of the concerned banks told National Daily that the banks wanted Etisalat to increase its stake in its Nigerian affiliate in order to reduce the risk of the company pulling out of the country due to the debt issue.

Banks involved in the loan deal include: Zenith Bank, GT Bank, First Bank, UBA, Fidelity Bank, Access Bank, Ecobank, FCMB, Stanbic IBTC Bank and Union Bank.

Emirates Telecommunications Group (Etisalat) owns a 40 percent stake in its Nigerian affiliate, which accounted for around 3.7 percent of the group’s revenue in 2013.

Etisalat Nigeria signed a $1.2 billion medium-term facility with 13 Nigerian banks in 2013, which it used to refinance an existing $650 million loan and fund a modernisation of its network.

At current official rate, the loan, without interest stands at N377 billion.