Operators MTN, Bharti Airtel and Ntel are among 16 firms that formally submitted interest in buying Nigeria’s 9mobile, formerly Etisalat Nigeria, according to ThisDay.
Africell, a holding company with cellular communications companies in DRC, Gambia, Uganda and Sierra Leone, is also on the list, as is Bua Group, a local diversified business with a stake in a wide range of sectors, which was reported to be interested back in July.
At that time, Virgin Mobile and Vodacom’s names also cropped up, but they appear to have dropped out now.
Morning Side Capital Partners and Blackstone Private Equity also submitted ‘expressions of interest’. Vietnam-based Viettel is also in the running.
The companies will now conduct due diligence and prepare to submit bids.
9mobile CEO Boye Olusanya said he wants to get the operator on track to make a profit and raise new capital, adding it was open to new investors.
UAE’s Etisalat terminated its management agreement with its Nigerian unit in June, after Etisalat Nigeria was unable to come up with a deal with its lenders to restructure its $1.2 billion debt after it missed payments.
Last month the thirteen banks to whom 9mobile owes money said they are trying to ensure a smooth sale of the operator by the end of the year.
According to GSMA Intelligence, 9mobile has around a 13 per cent share of Nigeria’s mobile market, behind MTN, Glo Mobile and Airtel.