Teleology Holdings, a special purpose vehicle promoted by a former Chief Executive Officer of MTN Nigeria, Adrian Wood, has been selected as the preferred bidder of 9mobile, sources close to the ongoing sales of the debt-ridden telco confirmed.
Teleology, a private equity firm with an investment portfolio of $11bn, offered more than $500 million to acquire the mobile network while Smile offered about $300 million.
This development may have brought to an end the acquisition process supervised by Barclays Africa.
Smile Telecoms Holdings, a telco operating in Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Congo DR and South Africa, is the reserve bidder.
It was, however, gathered both companies will be given 30 days to prove that they have the financial resources to take over the troubled telco, just as an official announcement is expected to be made, latest, next Monday.
While over 10 bidders had indicated interest in acquiring the mobile network, only five were shortlisted before the number was further reduced to three.
Globacom and Helios had failed to back their technical bids with concrete financial bids, while Airtel pulled out of the process last week, leaving just Teleology and Smile Communications in the acquisition quest.
Airtel pulled out completely, complaining about “too many hidden things” in the health of the company.
Analysts project that if either Globacom or Airtel had taken over the company formerly known as Etisalat, they would have overtaken MTN as the biggest operator in Nigeria by a number of subscribers.
MTN currently has about 52 million active subscribers while Globacom and Airtel have 37 million and 36 million respective.
9mobile, formerly known as Etisalat, has over 17 million subscribers, which if added to either of Globacom’s or Airtel’s, would have been higher than what MTN currently has.
Wood was a CEO of MTN Nigeria around 2002 was credited with building a very good business model.
The Australian has remained in the Nigerian business environment since November 2004 when he left MTN.
In July 2017, 9mobile was taken over by banks following a N541 billion debt overhang.
Mubadala Group, the major investor from the United Arab Emirates, pulled out of Nigeria’s fourth largest mobile operator as a result of the debt owed to a consortium of 13 banks.
The telco was then put on sale, with Barclays Africa acting as transaction advisers.
The telecom regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), is expected to have the final say after decision of the interim board — because of licensing laws.
The NCC on January 11 had said “Barclays is expected to review the bids received by the deadline and to make recommendations to the 9Mobile Interim Board thereafter.”
After these processes, the interim board of 9mobile will then notify CBN and NCC of the winning bid.
“The NCC and CBN will be duly notified once the 9Mobile Interim Board accepts Barclays’ recommendations and a winning bid is determined in accordance with the terms of the exercise.
“The winner will now apply to NCC in order to commence the processes for securing the regulatory approvals from the Board of the NCC necessary to give full effect to the transfer.”
Meanwhile, the ongoing sale of 9mobile has continued despite a Friday, January 12, 2018, court ruling expected to have put the ongoing sale process in shambles.
In the judgment, Justice Ibrahim Buba of a Federal High Court in Lagos nullified the appointment of an interim board for Emerging Markets Telecommunications Service (EMTS), owners of 9mobile, the country’s fourth-largest telecommunications service operator in Nigeria.
The judge gave the verdict in a ruling on an application by a firm, Spectrum Wireless Communication Ltd, which claimed it invested $35 million in EMTS/Etisalat in 2009.
United Capital, which is the umbrella body of all the 13 banks being owed $1.2 billion by 9mobile, had since appealed the court’s verdict.