9mobile’s thirteen bank creditors are working together to enable a sale of the operator by the end of the year.
Formerly Etisalat Nigeria, 9mobile was rebranded after Etisalat dropped its management agreement with the unit when it defaulted on repayments for loans that it had taken out to expand its network. Etisalat also relinquished its 45% stake in the unit to a trustee.
The operator owed $1.2B to the consortium of thirteen banks, which have now taken over management of the unit in an attempt to attract investors. To this end, Joseph Nnann - the former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria - has been appointed as chairman of the operator’s board.
The CEO of Fidelity Bank – one of 9mobile’s creditors – said of the operator: “the company has good fundamentals with about 22 million subscribers, and it is also very strong in data. Our interest is to ensure the company remains a going concern so that it can attract interested buyers. The banks are working collectively on this.”
Several parties have reportedly expressed interest in acquiring the operator, with Bua Group, Virgin Mobile and Vodacom all mooted. However, the Nigerian Communications Commission noted last month that it would require operators to meet certain financial and technical requirements before it could approve an acquisition, in an attempt to avoid a repeat scenario of Etisalat Nigeria’s problems.