12 January 2018

Nigeria: 9Mobile Sale - Jan 16 Is Deadline for Bidders to Submit Final Bids, NCC Clarifies

Photo: This Day

The telecoms industry regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), thursday gave further clarification on the true position of 9mobile sale by Barclays Africa, in relation to the January 16 date earlier announced.

Contrary to expectations that all the shortlisted five investors that are currently bidding to acquire 9mobile would know their fate on January 16 when Barclays Africa would announce the winner, NCC said January 16 date is the deadline for the submission of final bids by the five contenders and not the date to announce the winner.

NCC also made it clear that none of the bidders has been favoured to win the 9mobile acquisition as speculated by some online publications.

In a statement issued by NCC thursday and signed by its Director, Public Affairs, Mr. Tony Ojobo, it said: "Our attention has been drawn to newspaper publications alleging that a preferred bidder has been anointed to acquire 9mobile and otherwise speculating on the outcome of the ownership transfer process. For the avoidance of doubt, we wish to clarify that Barclays Africa remains in full control of the process leading to the emergence of a new owner for the company. Barclays has not authorised any publication on the matter and is obliged to maintain full confidentiality thereon."

The statement further said that an approval for the request for extension of time by the 9mobile interim board was given by the two regulators - NCC and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). This sets the deadline for the receipt of binding offers from the prospective bidders till January 16, 2018.

Contrary to speculations that a "winner" will be announced on the same day (January 16, 2018), we wish to clarify that Barclays is expected to review the bids received by the deadline and to make recommendations to the 9mobile interim board thereafter.

The NCC and CBN will be duly notified once the 9mobile interim board accepts Barclays' recommendations and a winning bid is determined in accordance with the terms of the exercise.

The winner will now apply to NCC in order to commence the processes for securing the regulatory approvals from the board of the NCC necessary to give full effect to the transfer.

Giving further insight, NCC said the winner would only be announced after Barclays Africa has submitted its report and recommendation to the interim board of 9mobile, subject to acceptance of the recommendation of Barclays Africa, by the interim board.

Barclays Africa is expected to submit its recommendation to the board after it must have reviewed the final bid submission, whose deadline is January 16.

It will definitely take the board members some more time to meet and either give their consent or disapprove the recommendation of Barclays Africa, an indication that the winner might not likely be announced before the end of January this year.

THISDAY investigation showed that the interim board members of 9mobile include the representative of CBN as the chairman of the board, three representatives from the lending banks, and three members from 9mobile shareholders. NCC, it was gathered, is not part of the board members because of its regulatory functions, and will not be part of those that will determine the winner.

A source close to NCC, however told THISDAY that NCC's interest in intervening in the 9mobile indebtedness issue to the 13 local banks was purely in the interest of the telecoms sector to save the over 2,000 employees of 9mobile from losing their jobs, to protect the over 20 million subscribers of 9mobile, to protect telecoms investment and to assist the 13 banks recover the $1.2 million loan given to 9mobile in 2013, which it was unable to repay, citing economic downturn of 2015-2016 and naira devaluation, which negatively impacted on the dollar-denominated component of the loan.

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