The battle to acquire 9Mobile, Nigeria’s fourth largest telecoms operator, has heated up, with ten out of sixteen firms that submitted expression of interest for the telecoms firm already prequalified by Barclays bank, the financial adviser to the deal to go on to the financial bid stage of the process.
Sources told businessamlive that the ten firms having passed the technical evaluation bid stage have now been qualified to submit bids for 9Mobile’s acquisition.
The companies will also have to submit bid bonds of $150 million as proof of their capacity to pay for the acquisition.
The companies include Globacom Nigeria Limited, Nigeria’s second largest network operator founded in 2003 by business mogul, Chief Michael Adenuga; India’s Bharti Airtel, operating as Airtel in Nigeria; and Dangote Group’s telecoms business unit, Alheri Engineering Limited, which has the backing of U.S.-based Blackstone Group with an investment portfolio of $378 billion and a Nigerian subsidiary called the Black Rhino Group.
Others are Smile Telecoms Holdings, a South African telecommunications group with subsidiaries in Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda; Helios Towers, the former owner, and operator of the largest telecoms tower network in Nigeria and other countries, before it sold its Nigerian infrastructure to HIS; Centricus Capital and Africell, a subsidiary of the Lebanon-based Lintel Group of Companies, with cellular communications operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), The Gambia, Sierra Leone and Uganda; Dubai-based Abraaj Capital, a private equity firm with an investment portfolio of $11 billion; and Teleology Holdings Limited, a special purpose vehicle led by a former chief executive of MTN Nigeria, Adian Wood, and Ericsson.
Equally in the race to acquire 9Mobile is Africa Capital Alliance (ACA), a leading pan-African investment firm based in Lagos; and The Carlyle Group, a U.S.-based multinational private equity, alternative asset management, and financial services corporation.
The winner, according to the source, will then be invited to negotiate and agree to the payment terms to the takeover of 9mobile.
Should the firm that wins the financial bid stage fail to meet the payment terms within the stipulated period agreed with Barclays, the reserve bidder (or the firm that submitted the second highest bid) will be invited to acquire 9mobile.
9Mobile was put up for sale this year after it defaulted on a $1.2 billion loan to a consortium of thirteen banks in Nigeria.
The Central Bank of Nigeria was forced to prevent the company from going into receivership when it hurriedly announced a new change in the board and management. The parent company in Abu Dhabi was also forced to relinquish its 45 percent stake to a trustee.
The 13 banks had put a freeze on collecting the principal and interest payments on the syndicated $1.2 billion loan pending new investors, in order to help the company survive.
9mobile has over 20 million subscribers with a 14 percent share of the Nigerian market.
South Africa’s MTN is the market leader with 47 percent, Globacom has 20 percent while Airtel has 19 percent.
By Tony Ademiluyi