United Capital Trustees, which is handling the sale of Nigerian operator 9mobile, vowed to appeal a court order disbanding the board of Emerging Markets Telecommunications Service (EMTS), the operator’s parent company.
The Africa-based financial and investment services group was reacting to a Lagos high court decision to break up the EMTS board, which a judge reportedly said had been established without authority based on misrepresented facts. The court was called in after Spectrum Wireless Communication, which invested $35 million in EMTS in 2009, claimed the board’s approval was not in line with its interests and called for its contributions to the operator to be recognised.
United Capital Trustees was nominated to manage the sale of 9mobile after it defaulted on repayments of a $1.2 billion loan provided by a consortium of banks.
The EMTS board had the support of the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), and had received bids from around five parties for the sale of 9mobile.
Earlier this month, the NCC agreed to extend a deadline for the sale of 9mobile to 16 January after the original closing date lapsed without a final decision. The sale is likely to be further delayed due to an assertion by Spectrum Wireless Communication’s solicitors stating anyone “who transacts business for the purpose of sale or acquisition of EMTS or 9mobile does so at his or her own risk”.
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.