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Uncertainty Persists Over Possible Completion Of 9Mobile Sale in March

The controversy trailing the sale of Nigeria’s fourth largest telecommunications firm, 9mobile, formerly Etisalat has persisted with high expectation that the final announcement of a new owner for the troubled company will be made this month.

The attempted sale of the mobile operator last year had attracted over 16 bidders which were later trimmed to two- Teleology and Smile technologies, but the failure to agree on a new owner by the end of December 2017 as proposed has created uncertainty with the brand rapidly losing its subscribers.

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) had earlier dismissed reports that Teleology emerged the preferred bidder for the company, saying it was yet be properly informed of any new owner.

A reliable source told the WorldStage Newsonline that the winner of the bid will still be announced before the end of this month despite the delays linked to untidy job by Barclays Africa, the financial adviser for the exercise.

The source said it was the responsibility of the financial adviser to come up with a viable investor for the company to remain completive in the industry.

NCC had in February announced a new timeline of March 2018 for the completion of the sale.

NCC and Central Bank of Nigeria in a joint letter in November 2017 accused Barclay Africa of unwillingness to follow due process in handling the bid process.

They called for openness and fairness to ensure that a viable investor emerges to rescue the once fast growing telco.

Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management, NCC, Sunday Dare said in February that the Commission would not take the interest of a particular bidder above others, but that “the Commission would be glad if 9mobile is eventually sold to a financially capable investor that is willing to invest in it.

“As a regulator, we will be glad to hear from the right source that 9mobile has a preferred bidder, and that must be communicated to us by the interim board of 9mobile, to enable us guide the preferred bidder on how to apply to NCC for operational licence transfer.”

Dare also believed that false speculations surrounding the sale of 9Mobile had reduced the company’s subscriber base from 21 million to 17 million.

9Mobile’s customers had dropped from 20,521,952 in January 2017 to 17,075,813 in November 2017.

NCC’s Monthly Internet Subscribers data for December 2017 also showed that 9mobile lost 68,341 internet users while competitors like MTN, Airtel and Globacom gained 2,642.666; 911,040 and 87,538 respectively. The 9mobile’s loss reduced its internet users to 11,338.839 as against 11,407,180 in November same year.

The telco problem started when its owners defaulted in the repayment of about $1.2 billion loan secured from some top local banks. The development led to their divestment and takeover by the lenders.

Culled from WorldStage

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