The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), regulators of Nigeria’s telecommunications and the finance sectors, have raised concerns on the sale process of 9Mobile being handled by Barclays Bank Africa.
Both institutions, which saved former Etisalat now 9Mobile from being acquired by a consortium of local lenders, said the sale being handled by Barclays as the financial adviser, lacks due process.
In a letter jointly endorsed by the heads of the two regulators and addressed to GTBank, the facility agent for the 9Mobile syndicated loan, the institutions expressed displeasure with the “unwillingness of Barclays Africa” to follow due process in the bid.
In the letter, dated November 4, 2017, seen by businessamlive, the two regulators said they made it clear from the outset that the sale process must be “transparent and fair, with the financial and technical capabilities of the final bidders without question.”
They said they now have “serious concerns” since Barclays Africa, as financial advisors, have repeatedly exhibited signs of opacity in the sale process for 9Mobile.
“Given the overriding public interest in the company and the need for transparency, we advised that Barclays advertise the call for ‘expression of interest’. Barclays declined, insisting instead that the company being private, should not be taken through a public sale.
“This lack of a transparent process has proven to be selective and arbitrary, leading to allegations that the process is being teleguided to a rigged and predetermined outcome. The CBN and the NCC will not fold their arms and allow this to materialise,” the letter read.
Emefiele and Danbatta revealed that they received petitions from some stakeholders, which have made them more concerned with their suggestions to the board of 9Mobile to restore credibility being largely ignored.
The CBN and NCC then directed that all steps and decisions taken by the financial advisers as well as other advisers from the end of “expression of interest” must be communicated to CBN and NCC, who will have to approve in writing.
The regulators also directed that the process must be transparent in line with international best business practices.
10 firms are said to have moved to the financial stage of the bid process to acquire the ailing telco.
The companies listed are Globacom Nigeria Limited, Bharti Airtel, Alheri Engineering Limited, Smile Telecoms Holdings, Helios Towers, Centricus Capital, Africell, Abraaj Capital, Teleology Holdings Limited, Ericsson, Africa Capital Alliance (ACA) and The Carlyle Group.
The sale of the former Etisalat with over 20 million subscribers is expected to bring in the much-needed capital to make it stay afloat.
By Tony Ademiluyi