Nigeria’s telecoms regulator agreed to extend the deadline for the sale of troubled operator 9mobile to January 16, after the original lapsed without a final decision.
The Cable revealed the contents of a letter from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to the operator’s current owners Emerging Markets Telecoms Services, approving the extension – which gave shortlisted bidders more time to prepare binding offers.
9mobile – the former local unit of Etisalat – was saved from collapse by regulators in mid-2017 when both an investment fund and Etisalat exited the country after defaulting on a $1.2 billion loan.
The operator is the fourth largest in Nigeria with 17 million connections, according to GSMA Intelligence estimates for Q3 2017. Potential suitors include rivals already present in the market – Bharti Airtel, Globacom and Smile – alongside several investment companies.
Interested parties must submit a binding offer by the new deadline, which will be considered by the owners of the company and Nigeria’s communication and banking authorities.
Previously the Central Bank of Nigeria and the NCC described the deadline of December 31 2017 as “sacrosanct” for the transfer of the operator into new ownership.