An auction for troubled Nigerian operator 9mobile was reportedly won by investment company Teleology Holdings, which made an offer of around $500 million.

Media reports state Barclays Africa, which supervised the sale process, picked the highest bidder after four companies were shortlisted. The other three were operators Smile (which bid $300 million) and Globacom, and Helios Investment Partners: the latter pair did not include a financial commitment in their bids.

Smile is reportedly the reserve bidder: both it and Teleology Holdings have 30 days to prove they have the financial resources for the deal. 9mobile was put up for sale after it defaulted on repayments on a $1.2 billion loan provided by a consortium of banks.

Last week it was reported Airtel Nigeria, the fifth suitor shortlisted, dropped out of the running, because “too many things are hidden about the health of 9mobile”.

One area of concern centred on the board of 9mobile parent Emerging Markets Telecommunications service, which a high court in Lagos recently ruled should be broken up. United Capital Trustees, the company appointed to handle the sale of 9mobile by the consortium of banks behind the $1.2 billion loan, appealed the decision; a move a source told newspaper ThisDay means the sale process can proceed unhindered.

The Nigerian Communications Commission is expected to make an announcement soon.