Orange and Vodafone Group are reportedly among the parties interested in acquiring a 65% stake in Etisalat Nigeria after Etisalat Group withdrew its backing from the unit.
Local sources have claimed that “no fewer than five” firms have already expressed an interest in obtaining some or all of the holding, with Orange and Vodafone having shown “concrete interest” in an acquisition.
However, any deal would face a major stumbling block in the form of Etisalat Nigeria’s debt. After the Nigerian unit defaulted on loan repayments, Etisalat was obliged to transfer its holding in Etisalat Nigeria to a loan trustee. Any buyer would need to reach a solution for restructuring this debt.
A full rebrand would be a probably first step for any acquisition, with negotiators acting on behalf of Etisalat Nigeria – including agents of its banking partners and regulators – seeking to “mitigate any collateral damage and brand erosion” that could deter potential buyers. The Etisalat brand would likely be dropped in any eventuality.
Following on from Etisalat yielding its holding in Etisalat Nigeria, fellow investor Mubadala withdrew its support for the operator, meaning that its only remaining investors are its local partners.