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Teleology finally takes ownership of Nigeria’s struggling Telco

The long-awaited Nigerian acquisition has finally happened as the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Nigerian communication commission transferred ownership of 9mobile to Adrian Wood led Teleology Holdings Limited. This ends the back and forth issues regarding the deal which started since 22nd of February this year.

“As we begin this new epochal phase, we wish to thank all the employees who built this viable business. Our debt of gratitude also goes to our subscribers even as we assure them to get ready for real best-in-class additional value for their relationship with the 9mobile brand. Without you, there could not have been a 9mobile business for us to invest in today. We will justify your confidence in our brand by making significant investments that will improve the value you get for using 9mobile,” the company said in a statement.

Following the transfer of ownership, all acting Board of Directors exited the company and a new board was constituted.  According to a statement from the company, the board members are Nasiru Ado Bayero (Chairman), Asega Aliga  (Non Executive Director), Adrian Wood (Non Executive Director), Mohammed Edewor (Non Executive Director), Winston Ndubueze Udeh (Non Executive Director), Abdulrahman Ado  (Executive Director) and Stephane Beuvelet (Managing Director).

“For us, the composition of the new Board of Directors is another significant milestone, and this follows the issuance of the final approval of no objection by the Board of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to the effect that the technical and financial bids Teleology submitted for 9mobile met and satisfied all the regulatory requirements. This is indeed the dawn of a new era in the evolution of the 9mobile brand in the Nigerian market.’’

The Journey so far for Teleology-owned 9mobile

In 2013, a consortium of about 13 Nigerian banks led by Access Bank, GTB and Zenith Bank gave Etisalat a syndicated loan of $1.3 billion. This loan was expected to help refinance its existing loans and finance its working capital. $650 million was set aside for refinancing and the balance for network expansion.

As of 2016, the company had started defaulting on its loan obligations, which led to a few bailouts from its parent company in Abu Dhabi.

In early 2017, it was reported that the consortium of 13 banks, which lent money to the company 4 years prior, had threatened to take over the telco to recover the money.

CBN along with the Nigerian Communications Commission stepped in to avoid a forced receivership. The consortium of Nigerian banks later requested that Etisalat UAE, main investor, Mubadala provides another bailout fund but Mubadala insisted to divest from Etisalat Nigeria.

Etisalat Nigeria then offered the consortium of Nigerian banks shares in the entity via a debt to equity swap deal, but the consortium of Nigerian banks declined the offer insisting on a bailout.

After several unmet deadlines, the consortium of Nigerian banks again put forward a deadline of 23 June 2017 for the Etisalat Group to come up with a solution or transfer its shares to a trust, which would be managed by an independent trustee.

On July 2017, Etisalat Abu Dhabi announced that it had transferred 100 percent of its shares with Emerging Market Telecommunications Services Ltd (EMTS) to United Capital Trustees Limited, the legal trustees of the banks. EMTS is the vehicle Etisalat Abu Dhabi used to invest in Nigeria. After the exit, a new board was constituted to run the company pending when a buyer is found. The name of the telco was immediately changed to 9mobile.

On the 22nd of February this year, Teleology Holdings emerged as the preferred bidder for the acquisition of 9mobile with Smile Communications emerging as the reserved bidder. In order to have full possession of its $500 million 9mobile bid, Teleology, led by Adrian Wood, made a $50 million non-refundable deposit for Nigeria’s fourth largest network operator.