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Airtel Pulls Out of 9Mobile Sale, Two Others Likely to Join

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

One of the top five firms jostling to purchase troubled 9mobile, Bharti Airtel, has reportedly pulled out of the race.

TheCable is reporting that the company, which already operates in the country as Airtel Nigeria, did not submit a final bid to Barclays Africa.

9mobile, formerly Etisalat Nigeria, got into trouble when it obtained a syndicated loan of $1.2 billion from 13 banks in the country to expand its operations.

However, due to economic crisis in the country in 2016, the management of the company was unable to pay back the loan and the lenders came knocking.

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In order to avert a major crisis, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) took over the firm and appointed an interim board to oversee its sale.

This was to be concluded before December 31, 2017, but when the deadline was not met, the date was shifted to January 16, 2017.

However, one of the shareholders of Emerging Markets Telecommunications Service (EMTS), which owns the operating licence of 9mobile, Spectrum Wireless, obtained a court judgment last Friday nullifying the interim board, making the sale of the company void.

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At a press conference in Lagos on Sunday, Spectrum Wireless, warned the intending buyers of 9mobile to stay off or risk losing their investments.

A report by TheCable on Friday (today) disclosed that apart from Airtel, two of the five potential buyers of 9mobile, Globacom and Helios Investment Partners LLP, submitted bids, but did not make any financial offer.

Only two companies from the five were said to have made financial offers by the January 16 deadline to the sellers and these, according to the online journal, are Teleology Holdings Limited ($500 million) and Smile Telecoms Holdings ($300 million).

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On why Airtel could have pulled out of the deal, quoting an insider source, TheCable reports that there were “many things are not too plain with the entire process.”

It said further that, “Airtel believes too many things are hidden about the health of 9mobile, and that it is too risky for anyone to buy the company.

“Things became compounded with the court case by Spectrum Wireless. Remember, the Strive Masiyiwa case over the ownership of Econet which hurt the company for a long time.”

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Modupe Gbadeyanka is a fast-rising journalist with Business Post Nigeria. Her passion for journalism is amazing. She is willing to learn more with a view to becoming one of the best pen-pushers in Nigeria. Her role models are the duo of CNN's Richard Quest and Christiane Amanpour.

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