Orange and Vodafone Group are in “strong running” to buy 65 per cent of Etisalat Nigeria following Etisalat’s exit from the troubled operator, people familiar with the matter tell Naija247news.
“No fewer than five” companies have expressed interest in Etisalat Nigeria, although the two international telco giants have shown “concrete interest”. The potential hurdle, the report said, was the restructuring of the debt which caused the current uncertainty for the business.
Sources tell Naija247news that the negotiators for Etisalat Nigeria – including representatives of its bankers and Nigerian regulators – are working to “mitigate any collateral damage and brand erosion” which could impact the new owners. Either way, a rebranding is likely to be an early priority for Orange or Vodafone if they become the successful owner, to shift away from the Etisalat name.
After the Nigerian business defaulted on its loan repayments, Etisalat was required to transfer its holding in the company to a consortium of lenders to the Nigerian operation.
UAE investment fund Mubadala was also reported to have pulled-out, leaving Etisalat Nigeria in the hands of local banks.
Etisalat had been in talks with Nigerians banks to restructure a $1.2billion trade facility after missing repayments, but the talks failed to produce tangible result.
Zenith Bank, Guaranty Trust Bank, First Bank, United Bank for African, Fidelity Bank, Access Bank, Ecobank, FCMB, Stanbic IBTC Bank and Union Bank are involved in the loan deal.
The telco said it had serviced its debt obligation up until February 2017. According to the company, the outstanding loan sum to the lenders stands at $227m and N113bn, bringing the total to $574m if the naira portion is converted to US dollars.
Etisalat Nigeria is the biggest victim of dollar shortages currently faced Nigeria due to lower oil prices and economic recession. This had made the company struggle to make repayments to lenders and suppliers.