Nigeria’s 9Mobile set to change hands if bidder meets deadline for $50m deposit

Nigeria’s 9Mobile set to change hands if bidder meets deadline for $50m deposit

Teleology Holdings is set to take control of the former Etisalat Nigeria this week if it pays its $50 million deposit on its bid.

The company, controlled by former Liquid Telecom and MTN executive Adrian Wood, bid $500 million for the company, now known as 9Mobile, well ahead of rival operator Smile Telecoms, which offered only $300 million.

Barclays Bank, which ran the auction for the operator, confirmed in February that Teleology was the preferred bidder for 9Mobile – but Smile has said it is standing by in case Teleology does not pay its deposit on the transaction. Teleology is due to pay the non-refundable deposit by Friday.

Etisalat pulled out of its Nigerian operation in July 2017 when the local company defaulted on repayments for a $1.2 billion loan. Five companies were shortlisted for the auction but Airtel Nigeria, Globacom and Helios Investment Partners all pulled out, leaving only Smile Telecom and Teleology Holdings.

Seven years ago Wood was leading a consortium called Brymedia West Africa that was bidding to take over Nigeria’s moribund fixed-line operator, then called Nitel.

He told Nigeria media at the time that the consortium was willing to pay $900 million for the company, having already come third in an aborted privatisation process. The two leading bidders failed to pay their deposits. Nitel is now Ntel, under new ownership, and launched 4G services in 2016.

Wood is now a board member of London-based Plus44 Holdings, which offers mobile advertising technology under the name Sliide Airtime. Plus44 also has offices in Nigeria and the US.

According to his LinkedIn posting, Wood was acting COO of Liquid Telecom for the first half of 2017 and has been CEO of MTN Nigeria and – in the 1990s – Telenor Central Europe.

Reserve bidder Smile said that if it won the bid it would be able to refarm its existing 800MHz spectrum for 9Mobile.

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