Nigerian 9mobile rescue deal ‘at risk’ after internal disagreements

18 January 2019 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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A rescue bid for the former Etisalat Nigeria – now 9mobile – appears to have collapsed following a breakdown of relations with Teleology Holdings, which planned a takeover.

Nigerian regulators approved Teleology’s investment in the company last November, after many months of delay.

Teleology is a Nigerian company led by Adrian Wood, a former Liquid Telecom, MTN and Telenor executive. Reports in November said Teleology was paying $251 million.

Etisalat Nigeria, part-owned by the UAE operator, collapsed in July 2017 when the local company defaulted on repayments for a $1.2 billion loan. Barclays Bank ran an auction for the operator and confirmed in February 2018 that Teleology was the preferred bidder for 9Mobile.

But now the partners in the project are fighting a media war and the company appears to be in danger of a second collapse.

Capacity has contacted Wood for a comment on the situation but has had no reply.

Deolu Ogunbanjo, chairman of the National Telecommunications Subscriber Association of Nigeria, has called on the regulator, the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC), to intervene.

Umar Garba Danbatta, executive vice president of the NCC, said the regulator has already taken steps to remedy the situation in the interest of subscribers and the telecommunications sector. “We need stability in the telecommunications sector and we will do everything in our power to protect the interests of subscribers and investors and to ensure that services are not interrupted,” he said.

Nigeria’s The Guardian newspaper – unconnected with the UK-based publication of the same name – said Teleology pulled out of the deals following what it called “some internal wranglings”, saying “there had been accusations and counter accusations from both Teleology Holdings and the local arm on the way and manner the firm should run”.

9mobile has 15.3 million subscribers in Nigeria, a drop of five million over the past two years thanks to the company’s situation. It has 9.1% of the Nigerian mobile market.