Lenders smile on Smile Telecoms with $51m injection

Lenders smile on Smile Telecoms and reschedule debts with $51m injection

01 April 2021 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Lenders to troubled African operator Smile Telecoms Holdings have agreed to reschedule its debts for a year.

At the same time the company, registered in Mauritius but with a head office in the UK, has had an injection of US$51 million to keep it going.

Smile Telecoms Holdings is believed to have been facing court action in the UK, with a hearing set for earlier this week.

This morning the company said: “This debt restructuring plan sees an injection in fresh money funding from Smile’s majority shareholder, the Al Nahla, and rescheduling on debt repayment until post-March 2022.”

According to Al Nahla’s website, it was founded in Saudi Arabia in 1996. Its main areas of interest are in the automotive, real estate, trading and investment businesses. Investment activities include telecoms, the site confirms.

Smile added this morning: “The fresh injection of $51 million in funding for operations will further enhance Smile’s position in its respective markets and energize Smile’s operations and support efforts towards achieving better performance.”

Smile Telecoms Holdings is not connected with the Smile Telecoms based in Manchester, UK. Nor is it connected with Smile Communications, an artistic creation company based in 21 Bedford Square, London.

Smile Telecoms Holdings last year moved its headquarters from Mauritius to central London, where it operates from an upper floor of 12 Charlotte Mews, above Pizza Express’s global innovation centre.

Smile Telecoms Holdings operates 4G LTE mobile broadband networks in the 800MHz band in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda. It also has operations in South Africa.

Last month Smile Telecoms Holdings announced the retirement of Irene Charnley and Mohammad Wajih Sharbatly, both co-founders of the group. However, they are still listed on the UK companies register as directors. 

The company appointed new directors to the board, including Osman Sultan, former CEO of Du in the UAE, and previously CEO of Mobinil — now Orange Egypt. He has been chairing Smile’s Restructuring and Transformation Committee since July 2020.

Other newcomers to the board include Albert Momdjian, a former corporate and investment banker; Caroline Chang, former EMEA general counsel of Farallon, a hedge fund; and Raihan Shaikh-Khaleel, described as an experienced restructuring advisor.