By Dipo Olowookere
Subscribers of 9mobile are not happy with news report that its new owners, Teleology Holdings, is pulling out of the telecom company few months after the firm was handed over to it.
Business Post reports that in November 2018, Teleology announced the constitution of a new board of directors for 9mobile, former known as Etisalat Nigeria.
This followed the successful completion of the tenure of the former board appointed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and in fulfilment of the consequential transfer of final ownership to the new investors, Teleology Nigeria Limited.
Some days ago, presidential candidate of the opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr Atiku Abubakar, claimed the family of President Muhammadu Buhari own a substantial amount of shares in 9mobile and Keystone Bank Limited.
Reports emerged yesterday that Teleology Holdings, a special purpose vehicle comprising telecom industry veterans and led by Mr Adrian Wood, pioneer Chief Executive Officer of MTN Nigeria, had withdrawn from further participation in the 9mobile project.
Mr Wood is understood to have resigned from the boards of Emerging Markets Telecommunication Services (trading as 9mobile) as well as Teleology Nigeria Limited, and has already communicated his current disenchantment with the 9Mobile project to his confidants in Teleology.
It was gathered that Teleology Holdings Ltd will be seeking to exit its shareholding in the local joint venture Teleology Nigeria Limited, which will be required to change its name. The development may further compound the woes of the struggling 9mobile operation.
On December 18, 2018, in a pre-disconnection notice advertised by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), HIS, the infrastructure services provider which hosts majority of 9mobile’s base stations, was granted permission to disconnect 9mobile and other debtor telecom operators within a 10-day ultimatum, ostensibly on account of 9mobile’s indebtedness.
Should this disconnection take place, subscribers on 9mobile’s network would have been effectively shut out completely from the telecommunications network and would be unable to make or receive calls, a development subscribers are very worried about.
9Mobile has been at the receiving end of considerable customer attrition since its financial troubles became public in 2017.
From more than 22million customers in its heyday in October 2016, for instance, the network had just a little over 15million active subscribers in November 2018, according to NCC data, and has consistently lost customers with each passing month.
Etisalat, the fourth of Nigeria’s GSM service providers, began trading as ‘9mobile’ following the financial consequences of defaulting in the servicing of a syndicated loan of $1.2 billion owed a consortium of 13 Nigerian banks.
In the aftermath, its erstwhile technical partners Etisalat Group exited the business and requested that the use of the ‘Etisalat’ brand name by the company be discontinued forthwith in Nigeria.
It was reported that since taking over of 9mobile, Teleology Holdings has become increasingly uncomfortable with actions taken outside of the agreed business plan, most important of which is how it has been blocked from concluding a management services contract with the local joint venture, Teleology Nigeria Limited.
The management services contract would have enabled Teleology Holdings and its team of experts oversee the implementation of its elaborate business plans including funding proposals — but that so far been impossible.
It is also being speculated within the industry that Mr Wood may be seeking a way out because of the controversy surrounding ownership of the firm and wants to keep his name and integrity intact.
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