The thirteen banks to whom 9mobile, formerly Etisalat Nigeria, owes money are trying to ensure a smooth sale of the operator by the end of the year, according to Nigeria CommunicationsWeek.
The CEO of Fidelity Bank, one of the banks in question, said: “The company has good fundamentals with about 22 million subscribers, and it is also very strong in data. Our interest is to ensure the company remains a going concern so that it can attract interested buyers. The banks are working collectively on this.”
At a meeting in Lagos, he added: “As you are aware, the creditor banks came together to appoint a new board and management for the company, with the deputy governor of the CBN [Central Bank of Nigeria] as chairman of the board”.
Etisalat Nigeria owed $1.2 billion to a consortium of banks. When it could not pay back the loans, which it had taken for network upgrade and expansion, parent Etisalat terminated a management agreement and handed its 45 per cent stake in Etisalat Nigeria to a trustee. The operator rebranded as 9mobile.
The banks intervened and took steps including appointing Joseph Nnanna, former deputy governor of the CBN, to prepare the company for potential investors.
In July it was reported Virgin Mobile, Vodacom and Bua Group are among companies interested in acquiring 9mobile.
The Nigerian Communications Commission in August said it would sanction operators if they don’t pass financial and technical checks, in order to prevent a repeat of the Etisalat Nigeria situation.