By Adeyemi Adepetun
Anxiety over December 31 deadline to get new investors for firm
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Godwin Emefiele, has said that the apex bank is yet to receive any letter from Barclays Bank announcing its withdrawal from the bidding process for the sale of 9Mobile.
Emefiele stated this yesterday while fielding questions from journalists at the end of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting in Abuja.The apex bank governor, who confirmed that the CBN and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) actually wrote to Barclays Bank to demand transparency in its handling of the bidding process for 9Mobile investor, said the bank was yet to be briefed on the withdrawal development.
In the same vein, 9Mobile Head of Public Relations, Seyi Osundedo, who spoke with The Guardian on telephone, said the telecommunications firm was yet to receive any notification from Barclays Bank as regards its pulling out as financial adviser.
He said: “As far as we are concern, they are still in charge.”Also, as at press time yesterday, the consortium of banks, led by Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) and the troubled 9Mobile telecommunications company, were yet to issue a formal statement on the pull-out.
However, an industry source told The Guardian that Barclays Bank has actually pulled out for integrity sake, saying: “The bank doesn’t want its name and brand to be soiled over controversies emanating from the entire process. They must have pulled out to save their integrity. I can tell you categorically that 9Mobile sale has suffered a major hitch following this pullout.”
Besides, The Guardian gathered that the allegations levelled against bank in the handling of the bidding process might have been instigated by another South African telecommunications firm, which also have footprint in Nigeria and believed to have both technical expertise and the financial muscle but was not shortlisted among the 10 bidders.
Meanwhile, the December 31, 2017 deadline for the handover of 9Mobile to the preferred bidder, which the Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, claimed to “remain sacrosanct,” currently hangs in the balance, as it may become difficult for the telecommunications firm to beat the deadline.
Barclays Bank’s pull-out means the entire process may have to be repeated from the beginning. The telecommunications firm may thus have to remain under the supervision of the regulators.
A telecoms analyst, however, said that with the international and local investors jostling to invest in 9Mobile shows that the business of 9Mobile is very reliable.
He said: “However, any attempt by players handling the transfer process to circumvent the move will affect foreign direct investments into Nigeria. So, the regulators and players involved must be careful not to scare investors away.”
The firm, formerly knows as Etisalat Nigeria, changed its brand name to 9Mobile in July after the Mubadala Group, the major investor from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), pulled out of Nigeria’s fourth largest mobile operator following a N541 billion debt.The debt is owed to a consortium of 13 banks, with GTBank acting as the facility agent.