DUBAI/LAGOS – Abu Dhabi-listed Etisalat is considering a sale of its stake in Etisalat Nigeria after the local unit defaulted on a $1.2 billion loan payment but wants the unit’s debt restructured before it starts the sale process, two sources told Naija247news
Etisalat is due to meet with local lenders in Nigeria on Tuesday or Wednesday to discuss the loan default, the source said, adding that the Abu Dhabi listed company was keen to resolve the loan issue and would look for a good price to sell its stake.
Ahmed Bin Ali, senior vice president at Etisalat, said Etisalat Group does not comment on rumours or market speculation. Etisalat Nigeria could not be reached for comment.
It was not clear whether Etisalat, which has a 45 percent holding in Etisalat Nigeria after converting a loan to equity in February, would divest completely.
“It is at an early stage,” one source said of the sale.
Nigeria’s central bank and telecoms regulator on Friday agreed with local banks to pursue a default deal rather than a receivership for Etisalat Nigeria so as not to deter investors and to avoid a wider debt crisis.
Last week a banking source told Reuters that the Nigerian affiliate of Etisalat had given notice to its Nigerian lenders that it would miss a payment in February but the two sides are yet to agree terms.
Etisalat Nigeria signed a $1.2 billion medium-term facility with 13 Nigerian banks in 2013, which it used to refinance an existing $650 million loan and modernise its network.
But an economic downturn, a currency devaluation and dollar shortages on Nigeria’s interbank market led to it missing payment, Ibrahim Dikko, vice president for regulatory affairs at Etisalat Nigeria, has said.
Banks involved in the loan include: Zenith Bank , GT Bank, First Bank, UBA, Fidelity Bank, Access Bank, Ecobank, FCMB, Stanbic IBTC Bank and Union Bank.