Sixteen firms have registered their interest in acquiring Nigerian operator 9mobile, formerly Etisalat Nigeria.
Among the companies are some heavyweight groups such as pan-African MTN, India’s Bharti Airtel, and Nigeria’s Ntel. Other interested parties include Africell, which is active in the cellular space in DRC, Gambia, Sierra Leone and Uganda, and Bua Group, which is active across several sectors in Africa.
‘Expressions of interest’ were also made by Morning Side Capital Partners and Blackstone Private Equity, while Vietnam’s Viettel has thrown its hat into the ring. Virgin Mobile and Vodacom were mooted in July as potential buyers but appear to have lost interest.
The interested parties are now set to conduct due diligence, after which they can ready their bids for submission. 9mobile CEO Boye Olusanya noted that the operator was keen to attract new investors so that it could become profitable as soon as possible.
In June this year, following Etisalat Nigeria defaulting on loan repayments to its lenders, UAE-based Etisalat terminated its management contract with the Nigerian operator. The newly rebranded 9mobile has debts of $1.2 billion owed to thirteen banks, which collectively issued a statement in September stating their goal of selling the unit by the end of 2017.
9mobile has a market share of around 13% in Nigeria, behind MTN, Glo Mobile and Airtel.